RH Bill to enhance alleged ‘corruption’ in DOH, says Senator Sotto

While Reproductive Health (RH) Bill advocates push for its approval citing overpopulation and poverty among other reasons, senate majority leader Senator Vicente Sotto III during his privilege speech at the Senate on Tuesday said they should look first into an existing policy that contains provisions similar to the proposed measure.

Sotto in his speech said that while the RH Bill is not approved yet and is still being deliberated in congress, he discovered that the Department of Health (DOH) has already implemented an apparent similar program.

It is called the integrated Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health and Nutrition (MNCHN) strategy which was formulated and being implemented through Administrative Order (AO) No. 2008-0029 dated September 9, 2008, Sotto said.

The AO “outlines specific policies and actions for local health systems to systematically address health risks that lead to maternal and especially neonatal deaths, which comprise half of reported infant mortalities.”

The purpose of MNCHN, the senator said, is to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality in the country. He noted that it is being funded by hundreds of millions of pesos from taxpayers' money.

Sotto said that under the program, qualified provinces and urbanized cities are supposed to receive P1M more or less, each, to fund family health initiatives. He said he was told that the local government units (LGUs) did not receive even a single centavo.

Sotto claims he already got hold of several certifications that the LGU's did not receive the funds, among them the province of Batangas, and is awaiting other LGUs to provide his office the same document.

Sotto alleged that funds intended for family health programs for LGUs did not end up with beneficiaries. He wants the DOH' budget scrutinized and demands for investigation and proper inquiry on the purported anomalous transactions of the health department relative to the MNCHN.

Senator Sotto insisted that a probe on the alleged irregularities in fund allocations for DOH's family health programs be conducted before further debate on the RH Bill is held. He believes that the RH Bill, once approved, will only enhance the alleged ‘corruption in the DOH’.