PCSO ambulances given to 29 solons
Allies of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were showered not only with endowments for their constituents’ hospital and medical expenses but were also given ambulances by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
PCSO documents showed that 314 ambulances were given to Arroyo’s son, Rep. Diosdado “Dato” Macapagal-Arroyo of Camarines Sur, 28 other members of the House of Representatives, and 65 governors during the last four-and-a-half years of the administration. Each ambulance cost about P1 million.
The PCSO said 73 percent of the ambulances were awarded at no cost to Gloria Arroyo’s allies despite the charity agency’s policy that beneficiaries must shoulder at least 40 percent of the vehicles’ price.
All the 29 members of the House got ambulances without giving their 40-percent share.
PCSO General Manager Ferdinand Rojas II on Sunday said the politicians emblazoned the ambulances with their images and names, and used them for nonmedical purposes—another violation of the agency’s policy.
Rojas said the ambulance data showed the same pattern of using PCSO funds to reward allies of Arroyo in the second half of her nine-year administration.
He noted that the lawmakers and governors, along with influential leaders of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, proved to be a crucial support group of Arroyo, especially after the “Hello Garci” election cheating scandal in June 2005 unleashed street protests calling for her ouster and a series of impeachment cases.
Several bishops were given Mitsubishi Pajeros.
The ambulance that Rep. Dato Arroyo received was delivered to the Sipocot district hospital. He was also among eight lawmakers who got a total of P92.2 million in endowment funds from the previous PCSO management. He received P500,000.
Suarez top ambulance recipient
The top ambulance recipients among lawmakers were Danilo Suarez of Quezon and Anthony Miranda of Isabela with three each; and then Speaker Prospero Nograles, Roger Mercado of Southern Leyte and Junie Cua of Quirino with two each.
Granted one ambulance each were Rachel Arenas of Pangasinan, Faustino Dy III of Isabela, Sally Enrile of Cagayan, Ramon Antonio of Bataan, Maria Victoria Sy Alvarado and Rodolfo Antonino of Nueva Ecija, Monica Prieto Teodoro and Reynaldo Catacutan of Tarlac, Antonio Diaz of Zambales and Edcel Lagman of Albay.
The others who got one ambulance each were Florencio Miraflores of Aklan, Exequiel Javier of Antique, Rodriguez Dadivas and Fredenil H. Castro of Capiz, Roberto Cajes of Bohol, Martin Romualdez of Leyte, Reynaldo Uy of Samar, Mayo Almario of Davao Oriental, Lawrence Wacnang of Kalinga, Solomon Chungalao of Ifugao, Miles Roces of Manila, Teodoro Locsin of Makati City, and Jose Antonio F. Roxas of Pasay City.
The top ambulance recipients among governors were Deogracias Savellano of Ilocos Sur (20), Amado T. Espino Jr. of Pangasinan (18), Casimiro Ynares Jr. of Rizal (17), and Mark Lapid of Pampanga (four). Then Pampanga Gov. Eduardo “Among Ed” Panlilio, perceived as a foe of the Arroyo administration, received five ambulances for free.
Seven governors received at least nine ambulances each, but their provinces shouldered 40 percent of the vehicles’ costs. They were Loreto Campos of Misamis Occidental (20); Sally Lee of Sorsogon (20, of which two were given for free); Joey Salceda of Albay (14, of which two were for free); Bellaflor Angara-Castillo of Aurora (13, including two for free); Erico Aumentado of Bohol (12); Oscar Moreno of Misamis Oriental (11, two of which were for free); and Alvaro Antonio of Cagayan (9, including three for free).
Infant mortality, dengue
Salceda said some governors opted to buy more ambulances because other colleagues did not want to pay their share of the allocated vehicles.
“These ambulances have been a big help to our province to reduce infant mortality, cure public health disasters such as dengue fever, boost disaster evacuation efforts and deliver medical services. We were inundated by disasters such Supertyphoons ‘Reming’ and ‘Milenyo’ and the Mayon eruption in 2007,” Salceda said in an interview.
After uncovering the skewed PCSO distribution of ambulances which pushed the Arroyo administration’s political survival rather than its charitable work, the new PCSO management has adopted an “ambulance mapping scheme” in which municipalities that need the most medical support would get the vehicles, PCSO Director Mabel Mamba said.
Free for poor towns
Mamba, tasked with heading the cleanup of the ambulance distribution program, said that only fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-class municipalities would get PCSO ambulances for free. The rest of the municipalities would have to fork out the mandatory 40-percent share of the local government unit in the purchase price of the vehicles.
She said the PCSO would prioritize hospitals and health centers and would not allow the lawmakers or governors to take custody of the ambulances.
Mamba also said all ambulances should have only the PCSO emblem and the name of the district hospital or health center that they belong to.
The ambulances will be monitored by the PCSO to ensure that they are properly maintained and utilized.
Mamba said the PCSO reserved the right to confiscate the ambulances if the contract with the agency was violated.
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