Hataman plays hardball with DOH over long-neglected Basilan hospital, threatens to defer agency’s budget

Published September 22, 2022, 7:57 PM

by Seth Cabanban

All Basilan lone district Rep. Mujiv Hataman wanted to know was why the Basilan General Hospital (BGH) had been neglected for “over 24 years”, denying it of a conversion to a tertiary hospital.

Rep. Mujiv Hataman and Rep. Stella Quimbo during the DOH budget debate (Screencap from House of Representatives livestream)

“Ano ang status ng Basilan [General Hospital], since taga-Basilan ako (What is the status of BGH, since I’m from Basilan)?” Hataman asked the DOH contingent during the House plenary debate on the agency’s budget on Thursday, Sept. 22.

Marikina City 2nd district Rep. Stella Quimbo, sponsor of the DOH budget, said that the BGH is currently a level one hospital with a 25-bed capacity and is thus not fit to be promoted to a level three hospital.

“Base sa assessment ng DOH, kailangan ng additional P50 million on top of your 2023 proposed budget of P36.5 million para maging compliant,” Quimbo explained.

Hataman then pointed out that the BGH is under the management of the DOH, and that any shortcomings of the state hospital were also shortcomings of the DOH.

Quimbo explained that the DOH had requested P88.9 million for BGH but the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), in its National Expenditure Program (NEP), had only approved P55.4 million.

“We completely understand the situation of the Basilan General Hospital and we have the strong commitment from the DOH officials to support the hospital so that it can be converted into a level three hospital, in due course,” Quimbo said.

“Hindi natin to pwedeng gawin (This can’t be done) overnight, we will provide additional budget for 2023,” she added.

Hataman, clearly annoyed, gave a quick summary of how long the state hospital had been neglected.

“Hindi po overnight ang 24 years (Twenty-four years isn’t overnight). Ang panganay kong anak is 22-years-old, ang kongresista na naghain nito, dati kong boss, chief of staff lang niya ako. Limang term ko na sa Kongreso, kada-taon lagi kong sinasabi, anong sabi ng DOH? Tapos sabi niyo mag-co-commit for next year? Eh, 24 years na (My eldest child is 22, the congressman who filed this law was my old boss. I was their chief of staff. It’s my fifth term in Congress and every year I always request this but what has the DOH said?’ Then you’ll say you’ll commit for next year? It’s been 24 years)!” Hataman said.

“May problema ba ang DOH sa Basilan? Ayaw niyo ba tulungan ang mga taga-Basilan (Does the DOH have a problem with Basilan? Do you not want to help the people of Basilan)?” Hataman asked.

The Basilan solon wondered out loud why the DOH hasn’t upgraded the hospital, given that it is under the agency’s supervision.

“Kung hindi lang din gagawin ng DOH ang kanyang obligasyon, tingin ko walang dahilan kung bakit pondohan ang DOH (If the DOH won’t fulfill its obligations, I don’t see a reason why we should fund them),” he said, after which he moved to defer or to delay the budget approval of the DOH.

This was the first time in the plenary debates that a solon moved to defer agency’s budget approval.

Quimbo, in an attempt to appease the interpellator, put forward the DOH’s immediate solution: “We commit to facilitate and have the application for the license to operate for 100-bed capacity by November 2022.”

Hataman thanked Quimbo for her response, but remained stoic and serious.

“Dapat gawin ng DOH ang obligasyon nila at huwag nilang isisi doon sa mga taga-Basilan. Kung sino man ang nag-manage sa BGH mga empleyado rin yon ng DOH. Kung palpak sila, dapat tanggalin niyong lahat at palitan niyo ng bago (The DOH should fulfil their obligations and not hold the people of Basilan responsible. Whoever manages BGH, they too are employees of the DOH. If they can’t do their job, remove them and replace them),” he said.

“Hindi dapat ang magsakripisyo yung mamamayan ng probinsya dahil sa kapalpakan ng empleyado niyo (It shouldn’t be the people of Basilan making sacrifices on account of the failures of the DOH’s employees),” he concluded. He didn’t push for his motion to defer.

Last July, Hataman filed a measure–House Bill (HB) No.1057–which sought to expand the BGH into a tertiary level hospital.

READ: https://mb.com.ph/2022/07/05/basilan-hospital-upgrade-new-sports-academy-proposed-by-rep-hataman/

The debate on the proposed DOH budget was ultimately terminated before of Thursday’s session.