Pangilinan votes vs ‘Bayanihan 2’ amid alleged COVID-19 funds misuse, Duque incompetence
MANILA, Philippines — Recent allegations of COVID-19 funds misuse and the “mediocre leadership” of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III pushed Senator Francis Pangilinan to vote against the passage of the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, or the Bayanihan 2.
The Senate on Tuesday approved the said measure on third and final reading. Twenty-two senators voted in favor of the bill while Pangilinan was the lone dissenter.
“It has been seven weeks after this chamber approved on 2nd reading the Bayanihan 2, extremely disturbing news of alleged massive corruption in PhilHealth hit the country’s news headlines,” Pangilinan said in explaining his “no” vote.
“In the days to come I understand hearings will be conducted to look into these serious allegations of the misuse of COVID related funding right in the middle of the pandemic,” he added.
The Bayanihan 2 provides for the Philippines’ COVID-19 response and recovery interventions. The bill also allocates a P140-billion standby fund for various assistance programs to cushion the impact of the pandemic to Filipinos.
”We vote no to additional funding specified in the Bayanihan 2 because we believe that Secretary Duque ought to be fired before billions more are allowed to be released to the DOH (Department of Health),” Pangilinan said.
“We must hold him, the country’s top health official and the Chairperson of the IATF (Inter-agency Task Force Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases), to account for the continuing spread of the disease among Filipinos,” he added.
Pangilinan criticized Duque for his supposed failure to keep coronavirus infections down and to flatted the country’s COVID-19 curve.
“His failure to stem corruption and to prevent the misuse of public funds meant to address the COVID pandemic, we vote no to additional funding specified in the Bayanihan 2,” the senator said.
“We cannot allow this mediocrity in leadership to further have a hand in billions of pesos worth of public funds and we cannot allow incompetence in the highest levels to continue to hold sway and make decisions urgently needed to stave off further economic losses, losses now reaching over a trillion pesos,” he added.
The senator pointed out that 13 of the 26 pandemic response interventions listed under the proposed law “are placed on the shoulders” the Department of Health.
“Unless Secretary Duque is fired or is forced to step down as Chairperson of the IATF, the country will only see more incompetence and more corruption issues hounding the government’s efforts in addressing the pandemic,” Pangilinan said.
“I am afraid that under the mediocre leadership displayed consistently since the pandemic hit us, none of these 13 interventions will be met or achieved and billions of funds will be spent yet again without our achieving the results necessary to manage the spread of the disease effectively,” he added.
Noting the pandemic response of other countries in the region, Pangilinan said the Philippines’ has “failed to stop the spread of the disease and have been unable to meet our own imposed targets and deadlines for mass testing, contact tracing, and isolation.”
“Nearly five months after the March 15 lockdown and after experiencing the longest community quarantine all over the world, the total number of COVID cases continues to rise with 82,040 total cases and 1,657 new confirmed cases and deaths now nearing 2,000 as of July 27, 2020,” Pangilinan said.
“In contrast, Thailand to date has 3,292 cases, Malaysia has 8,897, and Vietnam has 420 cases. The difference in the numbers is glaring and disappointing,” he pointed out.
‘Duque has to go’
This is not the first time Duque earned criticism from a member of the Senate.
In April, Duque faced resignation calls from at least 14 senators, who filed a resolution asking the health chief to step down from his post.
“The Senate last April correctly called on the resignation of Sec. Duque for his failure in leadership. Sadly, his incompetence and worse, his being linked to corruption has been condoned and left unpunished,” Pangilinan said.
“For the sake of the nation’s health and to prevent the total collapse of the nation’s economy, Duque has to go. The nation deserves better,” he went on.
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