By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday called for a comprehensive special audit on the government’s total expenditure for the COVID-19 pandemic response after continuous record-breaking cases of infection.
Hontiveros said the government released around P570 billion pesos for the pandemic response, based on the public documents from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
“Bakit parang missing-in-action yung P570 billion? Saan pumunta ang bilyon-bilyon? Are the funds parked? If they’ve been exhausted already, bakit parang hindi naman nararamdaman?” she asked.
“Everyday we break new records in the number of cases because free mass testing and contact tracing remain mediocre and unsystematic. These are very basic to our pandemic response but for some reason, we still don’t know the drill. The public needs to be able to see for itself that the P570 billion truly did reach the people and create the results we hoped for. Did it help MSMEs re-open and retain employees? Do we have enough isolation units fully equipped with personnel and supplies? Are there enough capable grassroots health emergency response teams now actively reaching out to those quarantined?” she added.
The senator said she will file a resolution to investigate ‘where the funds are, how they were utilized, and how they can be mobilized if unused’. She added that it was ‘crucial’ to conduct the audit in light of the ‘ever-increasing loans’ especially that the government has a record of overspending, citing the overpriced test kits, nucleic acid extractors, and personal protective equipment (PPE) exposed in 2020.
“This new resolution I will file will cover both Bayanihan 1 and Bayanihan 2. Those 2 emergency laws were passed specifically to fund the fight against COVID-19, pero halatang nagkukulang tayo. We need to see the gaps so we can aggressively fill them in. We need a full audit to see our real status, para makabawi tayo sa pumapalpak nating response. Kailangan nating siguraduhin na bawat piso natin ay pumupunta sa pinakangangailangan,” she said.
“With the overwhelming number of cases we face, that is 671,792 reasons why we need to conduct a special audit immediately, and counting. Maraming nangangailangan ng ayuda para sa pagkain at gamot, at maraming health care workers ang hindi pa nakakatanggap ng benepisyo. It is our duty to the public to make this massive expenditure transparent. We need to mobilize any funds we have wisely so we can finally clearly see the light at the end of this very long pandemic tunnel,” Hontiveros concluded. (AI|MTVN)