The Senate would be willing to give the Department of Health (DOH) its needed funds even if most of its members had called for the resignation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Wednesday.
Sotto said their call for Duque’s resignation will not affect their allocation of the DoH’s budget for next year.
“My thinking is that Secretary Duque is not the DoH. He can come and go,” the Senate chief said during the online “Kapihan sa Manila Bay” forum last July 8.
“Hindi porke sa tingin ng Senado ay hindi maganda ang kinikilos nung Secretary ng department, eh magsa-suffer yung departamento – hindi dapat (Just because the Senate thought that the secretary of the department is not doing enough, the entire department will suffer – no). Kung kailangan ng additional funding, kung ano ang kailangan niya, ibibigay namin (If additional funding is necessary, whatever he needs, we will give him),” he added.
Last April, at least 15 senators signed a resolution calling for Duque to step down from his post for his supposed failure of leadership and negligence in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Health secretary, however, maintained that he will not resign as President Duterte continues to support him.
During a joint congressional hearing last month, the DoH requested a P182-billion budget for 2021 to implement the Universal Health Care law and improve the health system’s resilience in responding to emerging infectious diseases, such as the COVID-19.
The Department of Budget and Management said the health sector will be among the government’s budget priorities for next year.
Sotto said that aside from health programs, he expects the the Duterte administration to also prioritize the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program as well as the digital infrastructure, agriculture, and food value chain sectors to help in the country’s recovery from the impacts of the pandemic.
Congress is set to tackle the 2021 national budget when sessions resumes on July 27.
“We are going to discuss right away the 2021 budget bill,” Sotto said.