Unable to get Duterte clearance, Duque, Canda no-shows in Senate budget deliberation

Published December 1, 2021, 8:25 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III and Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Officer-in-Charge Tina Canda did not appear at the Senate deliberation on the proposed 2022 P5 trillion national budget because President Duterte did not give a clearance for their appearance.

During the Senate plenary session, Senator Juan Edgardo ‘’Sonny’’ M. Angara, chairman of the Senate Finance committee, said Duque and Canda sent letters to him that the President has not given clearances for their appearance before the Senate which was at the period of amendments on the budget today.

The two high government officials also said that they are busy in today’s third National COVID-19 Vaccination Day.

Senator Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, and Senator Francis ‘’Kiko’’ N. Pangilinan, had asked for the appearance of the two Executive branch officials before the approval of the national budget scheduled today.

The two senators wanted answers to the complaints of health care workers (HCWs) that promises for the payment of their allowances and benefits were delayed.

When Angara said that Duque and Canda were not given clearances by the President, Gordon asked aloud whether the presidential ban for high ranking officials of the Executive branch from attending the Senate Blue Ribbon committee extends to the whole Senate.

President Duterte and Gordon have locked horns on the alleged overpriced delivery of COVID-related medical supplies by Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation. Gordon maintained that Pharmally officials are being protected by high ranking government officials.

The discussion on this issue was shortlived as Gordon wanted guarantees that complaints of healthcare workers are addressed in the proposed 2022 national budget.

Angara said that in the 2022 budget, some P50 billion has been set aside for special risk allowance (SRA) and compensation for health care workers who had contracted COVID-19.

Pangilinan suggested that Duque and Canda should be invited by the Senate to at least one hearing where they would be asked to give written explanations on why the distribution of benefits to health care workers was delayed.

Angara agreed.