August 17, 2021
“PHP 67.3 billion misused DOH funds a clear disregard for people’s health and well-being” —CPDG
The Commission on Audit’s (COA) reports on how the Department of Health (DOH) used PHP 67B worth of funds intended for combating the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis and similar deficiencies in government agencies’ spending put the Duterte administration in hot water again.
In his public address last Monday night, Pres. Duterte castigated COA for flagging DOH’s mismanagement of public funds, telling them not to publish reports. Pres. Duterte also once again defended Health Secretary Francisco Duque III despite the latter’s repeated blunders.
These fired up the people’s ire. Senators defended the COA as simply performing its Constitutional mandate.
“The systemic bureaucratic corruption in government agencies, especially in the DOH, steals the people’s hard-earned money and deprives them of quality health care and social services,” said Health Alliance for Democracy Secretary General Albert Pascual in a statement.
While Sec. Duque explained that the funds were already “accounted for” in a statement on Aug. 11, the mass resignation of nurses and health workers over unpaid benefits including the unreleased COVID-19 hazard pay, among others, looms.
“The threat of mass resignation of health workers is a result of years of neglect and abuse. Dagdag nang dagdag ng trabaho, pero yung dagdag sahod at benepisyo, wala. Sino hindi mapupundi sa ganyang sitwasyon?” said Dr. Gene Nisperos, Community Medicine Development Foundation board member.
Various organizations expressed dismay and criticism over DOH’s and other government agencies’ mismanagement of funds, saying that these could have been used for free mass testing, speeding up vaccinations, providing cash aid to poor families, and giving health workers the benefits and allowances they are entitled to in responding to the pandemic for over a year now.
“Pres. Duterte and Secretary Duque should both be held accountable for pushing our health workers against the wall. The billions of DOH unspent or misused funds at a time of great need across the entire healthcare system reflect the incompetence of this leadership against the pandemic,” Dr. Nisperos further added.
“We understand and sympathize with the nurses and health workers who are exhausted with the government’s neglect. We should push for changes in the administration’s management of public health care and COVID-19 response to equally address the needs of medical practitioners, health workers, patients, and the people as the pandemic and its underlying economic crisis continue to worsen,” Council for People’s Development and Governance Spokesperson Liza Maza said. #