Veteran Journalist: "Aquino gang hijacked P10.6B senior citizen funds"

While the P3.5 Billion Dengvaxia vaccine issue remained unresolved and is still awaiting verdict from the ongoing investigations, here comes another significantly disturbing, financially overwhelming discrepancy masterminded by the previous Aquino administration. 

Roughly three times the amount of the Dengvaxia appropriation, the P10.6 Billion fund to be used, supposedly, for the insurance premiums of the country’s 7 million senior citizens, were so-called “hijacked” by Aquino and friends.

The “Aquino gang”, as how Manila Times journalist Rigoberto D. Tiglao, referred to, was basically comprise of the same infamous controversial Aquino appointed officials namely: former secretaries Florencio Abad from the Budget Department, and Janette Garin of the Department of Health.

According to a recently published article of The Manila Times by established and profound writer Rigoberto Tiglao, the “connivance” of the trio led to the unlawful re-allocation of the P10.6 Billion project to “suspicious” health projects. It is important to note that such reallocation of funds did not undergo proper procedures and hence, was not approved by the Congress.

“At best, these projects were designed to boost the Liberal Party’s candidates’ chances in the 2016 elections, by prettifying the administration’s image as taking care of citizens’ health needs…At worst, the projects were of the type that since the Republic’s founding have been widely known as a source of facile corruption: construction of small structures difficult to monitor if they complied with specifications, or even if they were built at all.” Tiglao speculated.

To further establish and concretize his claims, Tiglao cited two laws that governs how the disputed P10.6 Billion fund was to be utilized and who were its rightful beneficiaries. Tiglao’s justification, consequently, cited Republic Act 10351 of 2012 and Republic Act 10645 of 2014.

The former, otherwise known as the Sin Tax Law which imposed greater taxes for liquor and tobacco products. “It required that after deducting a part of the proceeds allocated for small tobacco farmers from this levy, 80 percent of the remaining balance should be allocated for the National Health Insurance Program.” Tiglao stated.

The latter (Republic Act 10645 of 2014) then came shortly, and required that all senior citizens be covered by Philhealth’s health insurance, to be funded from the sin-tax proceeds.

“For 2015, the first year of that law’s implementation, the budget department and Congress computed that P10.6 billion from the sin tax law proceeds were to be used to fund senior citizens’ insurance premiums. It was included in the Congress’ budget bill sent to Aquino for signing into law.” Tiglao accounted.

Such provisions, basically intended to benefit the country’s senior citizens, were suddenly downplayed after former President Benigno Aquino 3rd vetoed the enactment of the proposed law.

“In his veto message to Congress in December 2014, [Aquino] instead classified that budget for senior citizens as part of the national budget’s “Unprogrammed Fund,” which is essentially a reserve contingent fund set aside for unforeseen developments that require bigger government expenses.” Tiglao explained.

“It is astonishing that Congress acquiesced to Aquino’s order, which ignored the sin-tax law. That law very categorically provided that part of the higher levies on sin products be used to fund senior citizens’ insurance premiums. How could it be classified into the budget’s “Unprogrammed Fund”?” the journalist speculated.

Conclusively, in his Manila Times article, Tiglao criticized the lack of concern of Aquino and friends towards the well-being of their fellowmen. The controversial Dengvaxia vaccine and now these improperly reallocated senior citizen’s fund, are indeed proofs of this apathy and indifference the previous government leaders had towards the Philippine citizenry.

“Obviously the Aquino administration’s gang of three, as they did in the case of the Dengvaxia debacle, had absolutely no compunction about risking the lives of millions of Filipinos.” the columnist concluded.

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