“Hindi ba dapat unahin natin ang pagtulong sa libo-libong Pilipino na apektado ng dengue epidemic, imbes na sa mga kwestyonableng gastusin ng Malakanyang?”
This was the remark of Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros, who said that Malacañang’s proposed increase in its intelligence fund in the 2020 budget should be realigned and allocated to government initiatives against the growing dengue epidemic, and other pressing health and social concerns. The Senator said that the Office of the President has requested an additional P2 billion in confidential and intelligence funds, or nearly double this year’s total of P2.5 billion.
Hontiveros made the statement after the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed that cases of dengue nationwide have now risen to nearly 250,000 this year, with around 1,021 persons – mostly children- dead due to the epidemic. The DOH said that while this is already a “109 percent” increase in dengue cases as compared to last year, more cases are to be expected until the year’s end since the disease no longer follows its usual surge cycle.
“With thousands of our countrymen and women sick or dead from dengue, public funds must be devoted more to addressing this health crisis. If the president’s intelligence funds are being doubled to allegedly “secure the nation,” then why not use that money to secure Filipinos from this real threat which endangers the health and lives of our people? she said.
According to Hontiveros, the fight against dengue should receive budgetary priority, since considerable funds are needed not only to treat those already affected by the disease, but also to enable early detection, and prevent further transmission of the disease in various localities. She also said that financial support should be provided to DOH hospitals and local government units in their response to the epidemic.
“We need to procure more hospital beds, anti-dengue kits, dextrose bags, and even oral rehydration salts, since current supplies are already being used up fast due to the number of patients. We also need to intensify cleaning operations in every barangay, and conduct research that would allow us to tailor-fit our anti-dengue programs to the needs of different communities,” she said.
By contrast, Hontiveros said that Malacañang so far has failed to justify its bid to increase the president’s intelligence funds as compared to last year, or why such funds are not being lodged with the budgets of the Philippine National Police (PNP) or the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). She noted that Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo’s only explanation on the matter is that “the Office of the President is one of the better offices that can secure the security of the land.”
“Every peso we allocate and spend for more medicine and equipment will go a long way in literally saving the lives of our people. Dito sa laban kontra dengue natin ibuhos ang pera ng taumbayan, at hindi sa mistulang “blank check” na binibigay sa Pangulo at sa kanyang mga tauhan,” she said. SENATE.GOV.PH