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Opinion

Raid of social and health coffers?

PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero-Ballescas - The Freeman

We learned this week Tuesday that the post below, dated April 24, 2021, was earlier reposted by a very reliable Filipino economist and has become viral.

Should the public believe and demand serious investigation/verification of highly disturbing information divulged in this post or not?

The post’s highlights:

“The grandest heist in our history is happening under our very eyes. It is the perfect con: It is big, simple, scalable, recurring, unaccountable (and) can go unnoticed for years. It is taking candy from a baby.

“Every government has a milking cow: the coconut levy and sugar industry funds during Marcos regime, the privatization of government controlled corporations, the NFA rice cartel in others.

“But all these pale by comparison with the latest scam in terms of size, audacity and disgrace. The new idea is to take food directly from the mouths of the poor (through) the raid on our health and social institutions.

“The 2020 budget for health and social services is P800 billion-P173 billion for Universal Health Care, P109 billion for Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and P37 billion for unconditional cash transfers, totaling some P5 trillion over 6 years of an Administration.

“Under Bayanihan 1 Government has carved out from other departments an estimated P400 billion for COVID related expenses. This brings funds under DOH and DSWD control to over one trillion pesos.

“Congress under ARISE has passed legislation increasing spending by P1.3 trillion largely for COVID. If implemented, in the two years leading to the 2022 election total funds under the discretion of the DOH and DSWD could increase to over two trillion pesos-P2,000,000,000 ( which) is 10% of our annual GDP (or) P100,000 for every household of five (or) 20 times what 18 million families were supposed to receive from 4Ps but never did.

It is the amount of money your children will have to pay, with interest, for the rest of their lives.

At P1,000 per vote, it is 2 billion votes even if only 30 million are needed. The public – and, of course, the politicians -- want the DOH budget increased to whatever it takes to fight COVID. It is politically the most popular fiscal initiative. The victims of this standoff, unfortunately, are the poor whose social amelioration funds (SAFs) are now frozen.

“The heist takes various forms- raid on social relief programs, the 4Ps and the unconditional cash transfers which this year reached some P400 billion, with LGUs responsible for many of the distribution points. Millions of the intended recipients have still to receive the P5,000-8,000 promised them even as the Treasury says it has signed the checks.

PhilHealth is the poster child of the malfeasance in the department.

“A consultant recently resigned from PhilHealth testifying the agency’s ICT equipment was overpriced by P734 million and a “mafia” in PhilHealth involved in P15 billion of fraud over the years like padding for health care services, stories of claims for unnecessary procedures for dialysis and ophthalmology amounting to P154 billion, thousands of ghost patients with some 5,000 PhilHealth members, average age 130, reportedly (who) still claim benefits and non-COVID deaths being passed as COVID so hospitals in collusion with PhilHealth can hike their claims.

“In 2018 PhilHealth had a capital of P97 billion, paid claims of P121 billion with P49 billion pending (but) did not disclose how much of the P170 billion in claims was real. It received contributions of P132.5 billion from the hard earned money of its 53.8 million members. Now they are told the agency could go bankrupt by 2022.

“If nothing should come of the announced investigations, the raid on our social and health coffers will indeed be the perfect heist.”

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