Women dance to protest premium hikes

Jan. 16, 2014

Davao Today

DAVAO CITY – Members of women organization here used dances yesterday to demonstrate their indignation over a string of government policies and announcements of increased welfare premium, calling instead on prosecuting corrupt officials and stopping further privatization of remaining government institutions such as hospitals.

Members of Gabriela-Davao, Gabriela Women’s Party and One Billion Rising-Davao led the protest dancing to the Philippine version of the tune adapted by the One Billion Rising. They danced in different government offices where they wanted their specific issues to be addressed by the concerned agencies.

They first staged their “flash dance” at 10:00 am in front of the Hall of Justice in Ecoland, south of downtown, to call on abolishing the “pork barrel system” and prosecuting those involved in malversation of public funds. They proceeded to the region office of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) in Magallanes Street at 11:00 am to protest against the increase in the payment of member contributions.

The protesters said government must instead increase the budget for health, instead, and to stop privatizing government hospitals.

“The poor health budget has been depriving, not only to poor women but the entire Filipino people, access to basic health services, which supposedly is a guaranteed right under the Constitution,” said Mary Ann Sapar, spokesperson of Gabriela.

Sapar scored as “mere excuses” the reasons for the increase advanced by PhilHealth and the Social Security System (SSS).

“The SSS said the collection is due to unfunded liabilities but why have they given millions of pesos in bonuses to their executives,” Sapar said.

Emilio S. De Quiros Jr , SSS president and chief executive officer, told news reporters in the national capital that the bonuses were given “to encourage people [management and staff] to produce more.”

The groups proceeded to regional Department of Social Welfare Development despite threat of rain.

The women assailed the alleged corruption in DSWD’s Conditional Cast Transfer (CCT) program funds, citing a recent Commission on Audit report that bared 7, 782 ghost, or non-existing beneficiaries who have been indicated as having received P50.15 million.

“There is still P18 billion from the CCT budget from 2008 to 2012 that has not been liquidated by the DSWD under Sec. Dinky Soliman,” said a written statement the groups that they gave to passersby.

By the afternoon of Wednesday, they went to the Social Security System office in Bajada. The group assailed the 0.6 percent increase in member contribution to the SSS saying “it is already impossible, especially for community women, to pay”.

Grace Solis, a former employee said she stopped paying her premiums because she has recently been out of her job.

“I started paying in 2010 as the other half was paid by my employer. I think the amount was P312. Now, I stopped because I don’t have a job anymore. I believe many are in the same situation as me or even worse but the government still decided to increase it (premiums),” she said.

Cora Espinoza, spokesperson of the urban poor women’s group, Samakana, said the government should, instead, provide the poor with secure and decent jobs.

“The poor don’t even have stable jobs. If they have, it doesn’t pay enough to include the premiums much more an increase. With our taxes and other funds, the government should instead give these benefits to the people without additional collection. [But] the money went to corruption,” she said.

The Commission on Audit (COA) in recently ordered 31 government-owned and controlled corporations to return all bonuses and allowances of about P2.3 billion given in 2012.

PhilHealth Pesident Alexander Padilla defended the agency move saying it has the “authority” to do it. (John Rizle L. Saligumba/davaotoday.com)

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