MANILA, Philippines - Passing the Reproductive Health (RH) bill into law will only worsen and institutionalize corruption in the Department of Health's (DOH) budget for family planning, a senator alleged on Tuesday.
In a privilege speech, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said the DOH's budget for Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health and Nutrition (MNCHN) -- which includes support for "contraceptive self-reliance" programs of local government units -- do not go to their beneficiaries.
Sotto said a total amount of P1 million is provided to each province and highly urbanized city, aside from an amount proportionate to the estimated number of poor women of reproductive age in each area.
However, Sotto said in an interview before Tuesday's session that billions of these funds were unaccounted for in the past three years: P600 million in 2008, P800 million in 2009, and P1.2 billion in 2010.
In his speech, Sotto cited the case of Ilocos Norte, where a total of P3.7 million of supposed funds for MNCHN from 2008 to 2010 were not received.
He said 15 other provinces claimed to have not received any fund. He is now waiting for the reply of other provinces on the issue.
"If this is really the case, can we afford that this continue to happen? The House of Representatives version of the RH bill enhances these expenditures. Can we be assured that taxpayers' money will no longer be wasted?" he said.
Sotto called for a Senate investigation on where these funds went and how they were actually spent, while urging his fellow lawmakers to be more prudent in considering the proposed measure.
He believes this should make even the President think twice about supporting the RH bill.
"While advocates of the RH bill are focusing on various issues such as overpopulation, poverty, contraception, abortion ... it is best that we look into the here and now because I smell that there is something rotten in this state of affairs," Sotto said in his speech.
"Ngayon pa lang ay anomalous na, eh ito rin malamang ang magiging kalakaran ng planong RH bill," he added.