Press Release
May 10, 2011

Privilege Speech of Sen. Vicente C. Sotto III

Mr. President.

Article VI - The Legislative Department, Section 29 (1) of our Constitution provides: "No money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law."

Budgetary allocation therefore is a determinant of government policy - meaning, that we fund those activities which we consider as important for the welfare of the nation and our people.

The raging debate these past months on the pros and cons on the Reproductive Health bill, specifically proposed Senate Bill No. 2378 and House of Representatives Bill No. 5043 has obscured a clear view of the matter. While we appear to be debating what will still happen in the future, the reality, Mr. President, is that it is already being implemented here and now in the budget of the Department of Health.

The proposed programs contained in the RH bill are similar to those being implemented and currently funded by the government through the Department of Health. I should have really no problem with this, Mr. President, but I have realized that not only are present funds misappropriated; there is also obvious corruption in its implementation and the House of Representatives version will institutionalize it.

Let me explain, the 2010 DOH budget for Family Health, including Family Planning, includes provisions for support to Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health and Nutrition (MNCHN). The DOH has decided to execute this budget provision in support of the implementation of AO 2008-0029 or the Strategy to Rapidly Reduce Maternal and Neonatal Mortality. The Strategy identifies coordinated interventions at each life stage towards improvements of intermediate health outcomes such as contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR), antenatal care (ANC), facility-based delivery (FBD) and fully immunized children (FIC). These interventions are best delivered through an area-wide, local government unit-led, network of public and private providers capable of delivering the core package of maternal, newborn, child health and nutrition (MNCHN) services. To support the local implementation of this strategy, DOH shall provide grants to LGUs funded by the 2010 budget provision for MNCHN.

With information coming from the DOH, their 2008 budget awarded grants to LGUs in support of Contraceptive Self- Reliance (CSR) in their localities. From the 2009 budget DOH awarded grants to LGUs based on their: (1) performance in achieving MNCHN health outcomes, (2) capacity to provide MNCHN services ; and (3) commitment to pursue improvement in services for better outcomes in the future.

The total grant to LGUs, Mr. President, is Four Hundred and Twenty-Three Million Pesos (Php 423,000,000.00) distributed to 16 regional funds for MNCHN purposes only. The total amount available for LGUs in each region is One Million Pesos (Php 1,000,000.00) for each province/highly urbanized city plus an amount proportionate to the estimated number of poor women of reproductive age in each province/highly urbanized city.

Everything looks well and good up to this point except that, Mr. President, when I started my inquiries to our LGUs, whether they received the money indicated under the Family Health program of the Department of Health supposedly allotted to them, to my astonishment, the answer is no, Mr. President. Take the case of Ilocos Norte. DOH records indicated that said province was supposed to have received the amounts of Six Hundred Forty-Four Thousand Five Hundred Twenty Five and Sixty Centavos (Php 644,525.60) for 2008, Six Hundred Two Thousand Five Hundred Ninety Pesos (Php 602,590.00) for 2009 and Php Two Million Four Hundred Seventy Thousand Three Hundred Seventy Nine Pesos (Php 2,470,379.00) for 2010.

Yet, when I asked the heads of the LGU concerned, I was told they did not receive a single centavo.

I have managed to obtain a certification that no funds were infused to the Family Health program of Ilocos Norte. We were given the same information relative to the provinces of Batangas and Quezon, as well as Lucena City and other key cities and provinces, which have given their verbal confirmation of this anomalous situation, and I am just awaiting their respective Certifications.

Mr. President, if this is really the case, can we afford that this continue to happen? The House of Representatives version of the RH Bills enhances these expenditures; can we be assured that taxpayers' money will no longer be wasted?

There is a legal maxim that states: falsus in unus, falsus in omnibus, false in one, false in all.

There are reasonable grounds to believe that the funds appropriated for the Family Health program for the LGUs did not actually end up with the intended beneficiaries.

It need not be said that it is also our duty to ensure the proper utilization of public funds. What we're dealing here are not just few hundreds or few thousands of pesos but hundreds of millions of pesos! Hundreds of millions of hard-earned taxpayers' money!

As a duly-elected representative of the people, I feel strongly about this since we are and we will be held accountable to them.

Thus, it is only proper that we remain vigilant at all times in allocating properly and ensuring necessary disposition of taxpayers' money.

While advocates of the RH bill are focusing on various issues such as over-population, poverty, contraception, abortion and so on and so forth, it is best that we look into the here and now because I smell that there is something rotten in this state of affairs.

Pag-usapan muna natin itong kasalukuyang pinagkakagastusan ng Department of Health. Ngayon pa lang ay anomalous na, eh ito rin malamang ang magiging kalakaran ng planong RH Bill.

In the light of all the foregoing, Mr. President, I now seek referral of these information to the appropriate Senate Committee for their investigation and proper inquiry.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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