Diokno worried about rising PH debt, says gov’t must spend money properly

Published December 6, 2021, 10:36 AM

by Raymund Antonio

Senatorial aspirant and human rights lawyer Chel Diokno on Monday, Dec. 6, reckoned that the continued rise in the Philippines’ outstanding debt stock is a cause for concern.

Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno 

Diokno noted that the government debt of almost P12 trillion is 10 times higher than the debt left by the late former strongman Ferdinand Marcos during his regime.

“Medyo nakababahala iyon kasi siyempre ang magbabayad ng utang na iyan ay tayo rin (That’s a little bit alarming because we will still end up paying for that debt),” he said in a radio interview.

The latest Bureau of the Treasury data last week showed that the country’s total outstanding loans went up to P11.97 trillion as of October from P11.92 trillion in September.

Year-on-year, the debt stock was higher by 19.38 percent than in October 2021 and 22.22 percent higher than at the start of the year.

READ: Gov’t debt nears P12 T in Oct.

With this, Diokno said the government must properly use the borrowed money.

While he understood that the money was intended for pandemic response, Diokno stressed the fund should also be used to address other pressing issues such as hunger, unemployment, and financial assitance. These, he said, should be prioritized over infrastructure projects.

“Tama lang naman na kailangan natin ng development, pero dahil nasa emergency tayo sa pandemic ay hindi ba dapat mapunta muna sa mga pangangailangan ng taumbayan, lalung lalo na iyong mga nawalan ng trabaho, iyong mga nagugutom ngayon (It is right that we need development, but the money should go first to the needs of the people, especially those who lost their jobs and are starving because we are in emergency situation due to the pandemic),” he said.

The veteran lawyer also lamented the alleged overpriced purchase of medical supplies involving Pharmally Pharmaceutical and the government’s failure to utilize the Bayanihan 2 fund for financial assistance to sectors affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Nakita natin sa isyu ng Pharmally na napunta yata sa overpriced na face shield etc ang ating pera. Malaki pong isyu iyan dahil siyempre, dahil atin iyon, pera natin iyon (We saw in the Pharmally issue that our money went to overpriced face shields. That’s a big issue, because it’s ours, that’s our money),” he said.

“Mayroon tayong Bayanihan 2 na dapat bilyun-bilyon na pera ang pupunta doon sa mga nangangailangan ay hindi naman pala nagamit, hindi naman pala nagastos. Kaya iyong karamihan ng pera na iyon ay ibinalik lang sa treasury (We have the Bayanihan 2 wherein billions should have gone to those in need but were not utilized, not spent. That’s why most of that money were returned to the treasury),” he added.

The human rights lawyer also called “inhumane and unjust” the government’s failure to provide the benefits and other allowances of health workers, who are putting their lives on the line in the fight against COVID-19.