OPENING REMARKS of Senator Joel Villanueva at the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee meeting on the COA reports on the Department of Health
Thank you, Mr Chairman. I’m glad to see you up and about. Let me first of all congratulate you for calling this very important meeting. Let me stress and emphasize what you mentioned about the importance of testing and contact tracing because, your honor, it is still our weakest link at this point in time.
Mr Chairman, I will make this very brief, and I will no longer repeat what my colleagues have mentioned a while ago. We are here to listen to the Department of Health. We want to give them the time and opportunity to speak up and explain this information that we have gathered. Also, we want to ask COA as to how the audit went, ano po ba ang proseso, at ano ang nagawa nila.
I think the bottom line is accountability, Mr Chairman. Panananagutan. Public office is a public trust, and kung titingnan po natin ang ating mga healthcare workers, they are understaffed and overwhelmed. Ang ating mga healthcare workers po ay pagod na pagod na sa pakikipaglaban natin sa COVID-19.
We previously called for a clear plan from the DOH to manage the overburdened healthcare system. Nabanggit po natin ito way back November 2020, Mr Chairman, noong isang taon pa, na mayroong 14,550 vacant positions sa Office of the Secretary of the Department of Health, at ayon po doon sa 2021 National Expenditure program. Gusto po natin malaman kung ilan na rin ang napunan sa mga bakanteng posisyon na ito.
"Public office is a public trust, and kung titingnan po natin ang ating mga healthcare workers, they are understaffed and overwhelmed. Ang ating mga healthcare workers po ay pagod na pagod na sa pakikipaglaban natin sa COVID-19."
Gusto rin po natin malaman yung tungkol sa SRA, yung nabanggit niyo kanina, but particularly out of the P67.3 billion na various deficiencies noted by COA, mayroon pong nakalagay doon na payment to unqualified recipients P214 million. Gusto po natin ito maintindihan at gusto rin natin malaman.
Lastly, Mr Chairman, we also want clarity and transparency from the Department of Health as to where are the benefits due to our public and private healthcare workers, including nga po itong SRA o special risk allowance, pati po yung meals, transportation and accommodation allowances, life insurance coverage, among others. Ano po ang nangyari na nagkaroon ng pag-repurpose yung nakalagay sa report, nagkaroon ng pag-repurpose ng pondong ito. Yan ang gusto po nating malaman.
We just want to know where the taxpayers' hard-earned money - a phrase that holds more water during this period of national emergency - was spent. Paalala po ito sa mga ahensya ng pamahalaan na atin ang salaping ito. Salapi po iyan ng taumbayan at bawat piso na nagastos ay dapat naitala kung saan napunta.
We also thank COA headed by its chair Mike Aguinaldo who is also with us, for committing to your constitutional mandates for being guardians of the treasury, and for upholding accountability in using taxpayers' money Muli po maraming salamat Mr. Chair and God bless us all.