Sunday, September 22, 2013

PM supports Santiago bill giving aid directly to the poor

22 September 2013

Saying patients need no politicians but doctors and medicines during times of medical needs, the labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) has thrown its support to Senate Bill 1445 filed by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago that seeks to provide free essential healthcare directly to the poor.

Santiago’s proposal provides for the distribution to indigents of free essential medicines through barangay health centers.  The bill seeks to give the secretary of health the discretion to determine the kind of medicines that would be included in the free medicine program. The measure effectively removes the power of discretion enjoyed by lawmakers over their Priority Development Fund (PDAF) that reinforces the system of political patronage in the country.
“Senator Miriam’s proposal is in line with our view that the pork barrel fund must be replaced with a ‘universal system’ where social services are provided by the State as entitlement to every Filipino citizen and not as charity from epal politicians,” said PM spokesman Wilson Fortaleza.

The group likewise finds Santiago’s bill a strong argument against porky solons in the Lower House who are seeking a TRO against the removal of their discretion to medical and scholarship funds.

Fortaleza added that as pointed out by many studies, it is this discretionary nature of the pork barrel fund which makes this system a “political” rather than as a “developmental” tool.

Partido ng Manggagawa has called for a package of four steps it dubs as “Apat na Dapat” in getting rid of the evil pork barrels system.  These include:
  • Abolition of the pork barrel system at all levels;
  • Replacing it with a universal system to fund universal social protection programs such as universal healthcare, public employment program, education; socialized housing, and farm insurance/subsidies, among others;
  • Institutionalization of participatory budget process; and;
  • Passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.
Universal healthcare, Fortaleza argued, is one of the top concerns of Filipinos as cost of medical services in the country remains high while the supply side cannot cope with the rising demand for health services. 

Health experts estimated that the country needs some P312B-P350-B in 2015 to meet the essential health needs of every Filipino.  Based on national health accounts, 57.9 per cent of medical care comes from a household’s ‘out of pocket’ expense. 

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