Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima slammed Mr. Duterte for prioritizing the government’s anti-insurgency campaign over addressing the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
De Lima made the statement after the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) slashed the proposed 2022 budget of the Department of Health (DOH) and Philippine General Hospital (PGH), which could adversely impact the country’s pandemic response.
“With the pandemic continuing to be the primary threat to the nation, it is mind-boggling how Malacañang can slash DOH’s proposed 74 billion anti-COVID budget to a mere 19 billion, and PGH’s proposed 36.5 billion to only 20 billion, while the NTF-ELCAC got a 75% boost from 16 billion to 28 billion,” she said in her Dispatch from Crame No. 1140.
“This is not only the most skewed priorities in budgeting ever, it is also the most heartless and mindless,” she added.
Notably, NTF-ELCAC has become the government body most associated with red-tagging as it repeatedly accused journalists, and progressive groups and lawmakers of being communists.
De Lima, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, said labeling that much funds is likely a way to attempt to circumvent COA’s and the taxpayers’ watchful eyes.
“Baka naman kasi ang simpleng explanasyon sa tila katangahan at kawalan ng saysay na paggastos ay dahil mas madaling dumukot sa budget ng NTF-ELCAC kaya doon ibinubuhos ang pondo?” she asked.
“It may neither be in the interest of the Filipino people nor a good use for taxpayer’s money, but perhaps, it is in the interest of Duterte’s greed and good for his and his minions’ pocket,” she added.
By prioritizing counter-insurgency over the COVID-19 pandemic, De Lima said Duterte only proved that he “knows of a thousand ways how to kill Filipinos, but is entirely clueless on how to save the life of even just one.”
“The slash on the DOH budget also means there is nothing in the 2022 budget for healthcare workers’ Special Risk Allowance (SRA). It is as if the Duterte administration is living on another planet, prioritizing counter-insurgency over the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
“Sabagay, ano pa ba ang aasahan natin sa walang pusong Pangulo na mas inaatupag pa ang panggigipit at pagpatay sa ating mga kababayan. Hindi nga naman natin aasahan na bigyan niya ng halaga ang bawat Pilipino na nalalagay sa panganib dahil sa COVID-19, o ang ating mga healthcare workers na wala nang pahinga sa pagligtas ng buhay ng mga tinamaan ng virus,” she added.
Ultimately, De Lima stressed that “indeed, one cannot leave the care for the living to someone who spent his entire life building a career out of the dead.” (30)