Pangilinan insists audit of gov’t funds spent on COVID-19 crisis: Saan na nga ba napunta ang P353B?

Sen. Francis Pangilinan / photo courtesy of Manila Bulletin

Opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan is inquiring as to where the government spent P353 billion in government funds which Congress acquired to manage the COVID-19 crisis situation.

In the deliberations last Tuesday, May 2.  regarding the proposed extension of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Law, Pangilinan inquired if the money was spent appropriately to minimize the pandemic.

“We’d like to know: We’ve spent 353 billion [pesos]. We will allocate another 130-140 billion [pesos]…With all the money spent in the last several months, where are we in terms of curbing the spread of the virus? Have we flattened the curve?” Sen. Pangilinan asked.

In the Senate Bill 1654 or the “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act” aims to provide the President the necessary powers to implement the national response on the COVID 19 pandemic for an additional three months. 

The said bill will also seek to provide mechanisms for economic recovery and transition to new normal aside from the governments health response.

Pangilinan emphasized the issues of inadequate mass testing and delayed reporting of COVID-19 data.
Specifically citing the mass confusion over the results, to characterize government’s performance during the Bayanihan period.

“There are concerns about the last three months that we have yet to achieve the targets in terms of mass testing and yet we’ve had the longest lockdown, one of the longest if not the longest lockdown,” the opposition senator said.

Pangilinan also mentioned the slow accreditation of testing laboratories which could have  also helped the government in monitoring COVID cases. 

He expressed disappointment that government accredited 30 percent of those that applied two months ago, slightly increasing to 38 percent now.

While the Philippines has 49 accredited laboratories with 81 pending, Vietnam has 112 and South Korea has 500 testing centers. 

“This gives us a sense of where we are and where they are in terms of managing the spread [of the disease],” Pangilinan emphasized.

“Many workers are afraid to report for work, employers are asking about testing…This [the slow increase in testing and accreditation of test labs] is not acceptable. I think the Oversight that we will create must be able to step on toes to get the testing and accreditation of testing facilities done,” he added.

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