Lacson: Duterte needs strong political will, not emergency powers, to clean up PhilHealth
This composite photo shows Sen. Panfilo Lacson and President Rodrigo Duterte.
Senate PRIB/Joseph Vidal | Presidential Photo/King Rodriguez
Lacson: Duterte needs strong political will, not emergency powers, to clean up PhilHealth
(Philstar.com) - September 4, 2020 - 1:18pm

MANILA, Philippines — Another senator is dismissing a proposal to give President Rodrigo Duterte additional powers to clean up the embattled Philippine Health Insurance Corp.

"More than 'emergency powers' to reorganize PhilHealth, what the President needs is real, honest-to-goodness, strong political will first," Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Friday.

This comes after lawmakers at the House of Representatives, during a joint hearing on alleged anomalies and corruption within PhilHealth, proposed granting the chief executive emergency powers to reform the state-run agency.

Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto and Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Thursday thumbed down the proposal, both arguing that the president already has more than enough power to take action.

While Drilon claimed that Duterte can "reform and reorganize" PhilHealth without emergency powers, Lacson said the chief executive "actually needs an act of Congress to delegate to him such power or authority."

However, Lacson added that "if the President's intention is to cleanse PhilHealth of scalawags and misfits, he may not need that delegated authority anymore."

He further argued that Duterte already "has the Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice and other instrumentalities of government at his disposal."

In a meeting with his Cabinet aired last Tuesday, the president said that he would use the remaining two years of his term in working on cases against corrupt officials and personnel of PhilHealth.

READ: Duterte vows to work on cases vs erring PhilHealth execs until term ends

Senators seek Duque's replacement

"That said, there is no time to lose to exercise such political will: No matter how good our country's economic managers are, if our health department is below the level of incompetence in the middle of this pandemic, we will all sink before we can even start to swim," Lacson urged.

"For a start, he can fire its ex-officio chairman and replace him with someone even with little above-average leadership traits, competence, honesty and integrity — and who won't wash his hands but takes full responsibility for what PhilHealth does or fails to do," he added.

The Senate on Tuesday bared its Committee of the Whole Report which recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against several executives of PhilHealth.

In addition to recommending the filing of charges against Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who sits as PhilHealth chairman of the Board, the upper chamber in their report also urged that the president replace him as the country's top health official.

Even before the Senate's probe into the alleged corruption and mismanagement of PhilHealth's executives, over half of its members had already called for Duque's resignation over his handling of the country's COVID-19 response.

Duque, who continues to enjoy the president's trust, according to Malacañang, virtually attended the House panel hearing on Wednesday and backed the proposal to grant the president emergency powers. — Bella Perez-Rubio

PHILHEALTH PHILIPPINE HEALTH INSURANCE CORP
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 27, 2020 - 6:53pm

The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. is facing scrutiny anew over more allegations of corruption.

It was in the headlines last year because of an alleged scam involving payments to WellMed Dialysis Center for treatments charged for a patient who had already died.

Follow this thread for updates.

October 27, 2020 - 6:53pm

The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation announces that the agency has released P500 million as partial payment to the Philippine Red Cross. 

"PhilHealth takes exception to the insinuation that it is reckless and is playing on people’s lives. Its prudence in taking charge of its members’ hard-earned contributions is central to the state health insurer. Its exercise of judiciousness is to protect the people and their funds", PhiHealth President and CEO Dante Gierran says in a statement.

October 27, 2020 - 6:51pm

PhilHealth has released P50 million as partial payment to the Philippine Red Cross, PhilHealth President and CEO Dante Gierran says.

"PhilHealth takes exception to the insinuation that it is reckless and is playing on people’s lives. Its prudence in taking charge of its members’ hard-earned contributions is central to the state health insurer," Gierran says.

The state insurer adds that it will expedite the processing of its remaining balance to Red Cross following strict compliance to government accounting rules and regulations.

October 27, 2020 - 3:19pm

Two committees in the House approve a report recommending the filing of administrative and criminal charges against Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, former PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales and other officials over the widespread corruption in the state health insurer.

October 19, 2020 - 9:17pm

President Rodrigo Duterte says the government will compensate the Philippine Red Cross for COVID-19 tests.

The Red Cross recently halted conducting tests due to the P930 million debt of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation for the conduct of COVID-19 tests for the government.

"I don't think Sen. (Richard) Gordon would have in his mind to stop. What I'm trying to say is we will pay," Duterte says in a recorded address aired Monday night.

October 15, 2020 - 3:07pm

The Philippine Red Cross will stop conducting COVID-19 tests chargeable to PhilHealth due to the state insurer's outstanding balance.

PRC says it will no longer receive specimens for testing of OFWs, those arriving in airports and seaports, individuals through mega swabbing facilities, frontline health and government workers, and others included in the expanded testing guidelines of the DOH.

"The PRC does not have unlimited resources to replenish the testing kits for its laboratories unless PhilHealth, its major creditor, settles its lawful obligations to the PRC," PRC says in a statement dated October 14.

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