Press Release
May 26, 2021

Senate record bares hospital expansion bills pending in Go's panel for 15 months
Drilon proposes solutions to hospital expansion funding woes as they are not addressed in Go's bills

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon bared and questioned why several bills seeking the expansion of 13 hospitals languished in the Committee on Health chaired by Sen. Bong Go for a year to 15 months, all of which remain unfunded and inoperative due to the failure of the committee to report out the measure when Congress crafted the 2021 national budget.

"I examined the records and to my surprise, I found out that these measures we have been debating on have been pending in the Senate for 15 months dahil hindi ginagalaw ng komite. Bakit po inabot ng 15 buwan bago dalhin sa plenaryo," Drilon pointed out.

"Unfortunately, the committee 'sat' on these bills," he added during Tuesday's session.

"Bakit po inabot ng 15 buwan bago ito dalhin sa plenaryo?" he asked.

For instance, House Bill No. 2582 or the bill increasing the bed capacity of the lying-in clinic in Rizal, Palawan was read on 1st Reading and referred to the Committee on Health on January 20, 2020, heard by the Committee on October 19, 2020, reported out on February 15, 2021 and sponsored last May 17.

"Kawawa naman po ang mga nakatira sa Rizal, Palawan. Naghintay po sila ng labinlimang buwan. Hindi po dahilan sa ating pagtatanong kung hindi dahilan sa hindi ito inaksyunan ng komite," Drilon lamented.

He also cited House Bill No. 5870 or the bill establishing the Neptali Gonzales General Hospital which was referred to the Committee on January 29, 2020, heard on February 12, 2020, reported out by the Committee on February 15, 2021 and sponsored on last May 17.

The Senate record would show that all the 13 hospital bills being sponsored on the floor by the neophyte senator languished in Go's committee for a year to 15 months.

"Labinlimang buwan po itong naka-tengga sa senado dahilan sa hindi ginagalaw ng komite, Kung tayo po ay concerned sa buhay ng ating mga kababayan, dapat noong isang taong nakalipas ay nagawa na natin ito," he said.

Drilon noted that the Committee on Health conducted a hearing on the hospital bills while budget hearings for the 2021 GAA were ongoing wherein an official of the Department of Health admitted that there is no allocation in the budget for the hospital bills and the funding for these measures are to be included in the 2021 budget. The DOH official bared that the bills must be passed to provide the mandate for inclusion in the proposed budget of the DOH for 2021.

The minority leader said that these hospitals could augment the country's healthcare system to address the COVID-19 pandemic if the bills were given priority by the committee.

"It was not included in the 2021 budget dahilan sa hindi inaksyunan ng komite. Ang may pagkukulang po ay hindi ang senado kung hindi ang komite," Drilon said.

"Walang pondo dahil hinihintay na maipasa ang mga batas at pagkatapos ay isasama sana sa 2021 Budget. Ngunit dahil hindi po inaksyunan ng komite, hindi naisama sa 2021 budget," he pointed out.

The Senate chief fiscalizer proposed to tap underutilized funding sources such as the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund (MPBF) and the Pension and Gratuity Fund (PGF). MPBF has P29.3 billion while PGF has P152.9 billion under this year's budget.

Drilon said that in 2020 alone there are about P18 billion in savings from MPBF and another P17.45 billion from PGF. Data from the past five years would show that these funding allocations are largely underutilized. In 2017, the Pension and Gratuity Fund was used to augment intelligence funds and to purchase helicopters for the PNP.

Failure to identify the sources of funds runs the risk of these hospitals remaining unfunded and inoperative, Drilon warned.

"Our amendments, which were borne out of our questions during the interpellation, will specify the funding sources for the budgets of these hospitals. That is the reason why we asked questions," he said.

"This has to be done. Otherwise, these will become unfunded mandates. May batas, pero wala pong tiyak na pondo na pagkukuhanan. Ayaw ko pong paasahin ang mga kababayan natin, na may batas para sa ospital pero wala naman palang pondo," Drilon stressed.

The veteran senator also took exception to Go's insinuations last week that he was derailing the passage of the various hospital expansion bills.

"All my colleagues here know that I interpellate on different measures, whether big or small, especially when there are relevant legal or policy issues that must be resolved. Kahit po conversion ng isang maliit na paaralan, nagtatanong po ako dahilan ito ay pera ng taumbayan. This is the job of a minority leader. I will be remiss in my duties as minority leader if we do not ask questions," Drilon said.

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