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‘Di makatao! Drilon cries foul over P36B cut in DOH’s 2019 budget

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Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon on Monday described as an “injustice” the big cut in the 2019 national budget of the Department of Health (DoH).

“If we will just follow the proposed budget of the Department of Health, about 15,000 nurses and health professionals will lose their jobs,” Drilon said.

He made the remark during the Senate hearing on the proposed P74 billion DoH budget next year.

He grilled a representative from the DBM for cutting the budget of the DoH by P36.2 billion from P107.3 billion in 2018 to P74 billion in 2019, particularly for health human resources deployment (HHRD) which was decreased from P9.59 billion in 2018 to P1.17 billion next year.

“This is injustice and I will not allow the budget to be passed unless this injustice is addressed,” Drilon said.

Dir. Jane Abella, from the DBM, argued that the budget was just transferred to Miscellaneous and Personnel Benefit Fund (MPBF) pending a review by the department and the Commission on Civil Service.

“Fifteen thousand nurses and health professionals will be on the streets while we are evaluating. Can you imagine the effect of this on our 15,000 workers and their performance? What kind of planning is this? Drilon asked.

He said that it is not correct to transfer the funds of active government health personnel to MPBF, fearing it will not be released “without Malacanang’s clearance.”

Instead of reducing the number of health personnel, Drilon said that the DBM should regularize the 26,000 health workers, who are on “job order” status.

“You cannot have an ‘endo’ situation in the DoH, because the services will be affected. Let us regularize them so that we can provide stability to our health system,” he said.

Drilon proposed that an errata be submitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) “in order to correct this injustice.”

He said that it should not be the Senate scrambling to look for funds to restore the budget, which can be vetoed by the President.

Asked where to source the funds, Drilon said: “We have the budget.”

“Even if we don’t have, reduce some other items in the budget in order to provide the budget for the DoH. Remove the ‘fat” in the budget in order to provide funds for the DoH,” he said.

“This is a very serious concern. I have not seen in my 20 years in the Senate that a budget is slashed this much and the budget of the DoH at that,” Drilon said.

He also questioned DBM’s move to reduce the DoH’s budget for health facilities enhancement program to P50 million in 2019 from the current level of P30.26 billion.

“This is something unusual that is why I am alarmed. This is something worrisome,” Drilon said.

The DBM representative pointed to DoH’s underutilization of the budget to justify the budget cuts.

To which Drilon replied: “So that is a punishment. The DoH should show to DBM that it can perform and if it doesn’t perform, we would just let the poor patients suffer?”

Drilon thus asked the DBM to submit an amendment to the budget to provide enough funds for the construction and maintenance of health facilities nationwide.