Press Release
August 23, 2021

August 23, 2021

Mr. President, I rise on a quick point of privilege.

I rise to express my concern and to put on record my serious reservation as a member of the minority and also as a Senator of the Republic about the statement that the President made on August 21, 2021, to effect that the Commission on Audit should, and I quote, "reconfigure everything" and, to quote again, "sabihin mo agad there is no corruption here, there is no money involved."

I take exception, Mr. President, hindi lang dahil sa gitna ng pandemya kung gaya ng pinag uusapan po natin limited ang ating resources lalo't higit nagiging mahalaga ang trabaho ng COA, pero dahil ito mismo ang sinasaad ng Saligang Batas. It is not only that the COA is supposed to be independent, the Constitution -- and here I am quoting the Supreme Court itself - "grants the COA the exclusive authority to define the scope of its audit and examination and establish the techniques and methods therefor." If there is anything to configure or reconfigure, it is solely at the discretion of COA at hindi pwedeng makialam ang Presidente.

Also, why is the President telling the COA to reconfigure? Why should the COA say there is no corruption here? Why should it preempt any investigation on fraud, graft and corruption, and other such malpractices? Sa totoo lang, to a layperson, to "reconfigure everything" sounds like a directive to doctor the books or doctor the data. COA red flags are there to tell us how to govern better, but they can also tell law enforcers where to look, and which trail to follow. In many instances in the past, ang COA report ay smoking gun or material evidence of corruption. It cannot stand on its own, but on many occasions, it is an integral part of the chain of evidence that can lead to conviction.

Ako din po ay labis na nababahala sa sinabi ng Pangulo noong gabi ding iyon na "I will stand for Duque, even if it will bring me down." But as the country logs record-breaking COVID-19 cases gaya ng sinabi ni Majo (Majority Leader Zubiri) kanina 18, 332 today, the highest tally since the pandemic started with 3 laboratories unable to submit data, so totoo understated pa ito na 18 thousand plus, and with a 25% positivity rate - it may be accurate to say that Secretary Duque has mostly been ineffectual. The Secretary suffers from a serious case of incompetence.

Halimbawa nalang itong usapin ng mga expiring medicines na higit 95 million pesos. Kapansin-pansin din na sa press release ng DOH noong August 16, bukod tanging ang issue ng expiring medicines ang hindi nito tinugunan.

Mr. President, ito ang isa pang dahilan kung bakit ako ay naiiskandalo dito sa usapin ng mga expiring drugs. According to UN Women, in the various consultations that they have held over the course of the pandemic with at-risk groups of women all over the country, isa sa pangunahing daing ay ang kakulangan ng mga gamot at non-COVID health services na nakakarating sa rural areas. Sa datos na inilabas ng Center for Global Development, kumpirmado ang pagbaba ng access ng essential health care services, partikular sa mga sakit gaya ng hypertension, gastroenteritis, dengue fever, asthma, tuberculosis, atbp. So concerning is this issue of access to medicines to us that the Philippines is one of the proponents of the Draft World Health Organization (WHO) Resolution, along with 28 other member-states, calling for a global effort to improve the availability of essential medicines in the midst of the health crisis.

Kaya nga ang ating mga local government officials, lalo na ang mga nasa malalayong lugar, ay galit at nagsusumamo. Bakit, tanong nila at tanong ko rin, sa kabila ng kakulangan ng non-COVID medicines and essential health services, may nabubulok na gamot sa mga warehouse?

Bakit sa kabila ng DOH Administrative Order 9-B, series of 1998 na sinasabing ang expiration date should not be less than two years from the date of manufacture and not less than one and a half years from the date of delivery, mayroon pa ding biniling ganitong mga gamot?

At bakit kahit sinita na ng COA ang DOH noong 2019 for this very same issue, inulit pa din sa 2020?

Ito ang mga nais kong matugunan sa lalong madaling panahon. Hindi pwedeng habang nahihirapan ang mga kababayan natin sa walang katapusang lockdown, ang Secretary of Health ay sitting pretty at protektodo.

Salamat po.

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