LGBT asks for higher AIDS budget

The Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (ProGay) criticized yesterday’s supposed abolition of the scandal-plagued Priority Development Assistance Fund, insisting that President Aquino in fact took control over the congressional pork barrel and intends to hide earmarks inside the National Budget itself to escape auditing. The gay advocacy group demanded an authentic total deletion of all pork barrels including much larger discretionary sums controlled by the palace, and pressed its own calls for health-oriented budget reform.

Netizens had a field day making BADAF (short for Benigno Aquino Development Assistance Fund, a coined word) go viral hours after the President’s speech. Badaf is a queer Filipino autonym popularized in a 1980s disco song “Badaf Forever” (forever gay).

“The Philippines has a rising HIV crisis where one person gets infected every two hours, yet the allocation for prevention and treatment is so paltry, just a mere P120 million of the national budget. We are so scandalized to learn that 10 billion pesos have been squandered by corruption, and that one trillion pesos more is controlled by the President for purposes that is so hard to monitor and audit” said Clyde Pumihic, ProGay spokesperson.

The group said that Congress is deaf and blind to demands to fund the conservative estimated 2.2 billion pesos annual shortfall, the amount needed to provide adequate antiretroviral drugs to the existing populations living with HIV, clean up the blood supply, hire aid workers, and provide most at-risk groups with preventive education.

“The reported pork barrel take of 10 billion siphoned off by political dynasties and scammers like Janet Napoles could have funded five years of anti-HIV efforts. We demand the government to scrap the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), allot the necessary funds for comprehensive health care, and force these plunderers to return all the money they stole,” Pumihic said.

ProGay also pushed the government to halt its ongoing privatization programs to sell off 26 government hospitals, 36 inch drawer runners, and force many other public health facilities to remove free health care for indigents. The gay rights alliance said this move makes diagnostics for sexually transmitted infections acutely unaffordable among young and unemployed transgenders and gay men, which further fuels explosive rates of transmission among vulnerable groups.

“It’s important to demand for us to keep pressing for abolishing the Palace pork, like the Malampaya fund, which by law was supposed to develop energy industry but ended up as Napoles’ chi-chi condos. The same thing might happen to the sin tax law on tobacco supposedly for health spending, that is why we need safeguards to make sure our taxes are spent on health.”

ProGay said its chapters are ready to support the different sectoral One Million March mobilizations on Monday calling for the scrapping of the pork barrel.

The Department of Health reported that 431 new HIV cases in June brought the total number of cases in the first half of 2013 to 2,323. The DOH said this was the highest incidence rate for any month, with 88 percent of the new infections attributed to sex between males.The World Health Organization tagged the Philippines as one of nine countries where reported HIV infections are increasing by more than 25 percent.

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