Read: Senate Resolution 479, Urging COA to Conduct a Special Audit of COVID-Related Spending before Congress Deliberates on 2021 Budget

Various procurements made in relation to COVID-19 have been marred by allegations of overpricing … Congress is set to deliberate on the 2021 budget, and anticipating that massive allocations will need to be made to address the health, economic and social impacts of COVID-19, it is of critical importance that there be audit findings to guide legislators in their exercise of the power of the purse.” (co-author with Senators Hontiveros, Drilon, Pangilinan, de Lima, Recto)

On the President’s ‘Threat’ to Telcos to Shape Up

This kind of “threat” worked in the past: Mighty’s P40-billion tax settlement; Philippine Airlines’ settling a P6-billion obligation to the government; the Mile Long property taken over by government; and the rehabilitation of Boracay, to name a few cases that did not need to undergo lengthy and expensive court litigation – and I would say has therefore served its purpose, rightly or wrongly.

Whether the government takeover of telcos is justified and compliant with the provisions of the Constitution, given the circumstances, is another matter altogether, however.

Having said that, telcos should treat the President’s pronouncement as a wake-up call to improve their services to the public, as one thing in the President’s statement on the issue is certain and true: that our country’s telecommunications services pale in comparison with our neighbors and with other jurisdictions in terms of speed and efficiency.

But what the President failed to issue is a similar warning to some local government unit executives who extort money from the telcos in exchange for permits and licenses as well as “protection” from delays in the construction of such facilities, especially in areas where the presence of armed groups like the CPP-NPA is strong.


Opening of the Senate’s Second Regular Session in the 18th Congress

Amid the New Normal due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Lacson and colleagues mark the opening of the Second Regular Session of the 18th Congress. [Photos Courtesy: Senate PRIB]

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PingBills | Senate Resolution 475, Calling for the Constitution of the Senate Committee of the Whole to Investigate Alleged Corruption in PhilHealth Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

“These rampant and pervasive allegations of corruption, incompetence and inefficiency have systematically impaired the management of PhilHealth to the detriment of this public institution and its members, without any remedial measures to improve competency and exact accountability, thereby endangering PhilHealth’s existence, necessitating the Senate’s intervention to prevent the corporation’s financial collapse.”

#PINGterview: 3 Strikes sa PhilHealth; Wala Nang Mapuntahan Kundi Mag-Resign?

In an interview on DZBB and GMA News TV, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
* Senate efforts to address COVID-19 situation [01:48]
* 3 issues hounding PhilHealth that the Senate probe will focus on [04:33]

Continue reading “#PINGterview: 3 Strikes sa PhilHealth; Wala Nang Mapuntahan Kundi Mag-Resign?”

#PINGterview: Dapat May Makulong na sa Katiwalian sa PhilHealth!

In an interview on DWIZ, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
* Expectations at President Duterte’s SONA [00:11]
* Latest corruption and mismanagement at PhilHealth [07:20]
* Claims that IATF is a failure in dealing with COVID-19 [37:04]

Continue reading “#PINGterview: Dapat May Makulong na sa Katiwalian sa PhilHealth!”

Bigger and Badder: How PhilHealth Corruption Thrives Amid COVID-19

Corruption in PhilHealth seems to have become the rule rather than the exception. And the threat posed by COVID-19 seems to have emboldened rather than deterred it.

Just to cite an example: The newly instituted Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM), purportedly to support the national government’s response to the COVID-19 threat, gives PhilHealth the authority to provide special privilege in the form of substantial aid to “eligible” Health Care Institutions (HCIs).

This new malevolent scheme led to the release of hundreds of millions of pesos in record time – in one or two weeks – to a few unaccredited hospitals that register only one COVID-19 patient.

That, and other mind-blowing controversies will be the focus of the Senate inquiry in the coming days when Congress starts its Second Regular Session.

The resolution that we are filing on Monday and the ensuing Committee of the Whole inquiry will show you how even the COVID-19 crisis has created more opportunities for systemic corruption in PhilHealth to flourish.

As long as the responsible officials are not made accountable for their misdeeds, PhilHealth will continue to bleed dry, thus running the risk of becoming bankrupt sooner than we think.


On the Reported Shouting Match over Corruption at PhilHealth

Unabated corruption and mismanagement of Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) funds has been a topic of discussion among Senate President Sotto and me, along with some senators from the majority bloc, for quite some time now.

But the reported shouting match in a recent virtual conference between the PhilHealth president and some board members involving almost P1 billion worth of questionable transactions, including a total overprice of P98 million – if true, says it all.

I am now drafting a resolution calling for a Senate Committee of the Whole inquiry. As expressed by SP Sotto to me last night, this inquiry will be one of the Senate’s top agenda after our session resumes on Monday.

That such corruption occurred amid the COVID-19 crisis makes it more disgusting and abominable. Nakakasuya na sobra. Needless to say, there is urgency that the Senate has to act on the matter immediately, as part of its oversight mandate, having passed the Universal Health Law.

When the Senate investigated issues surrounding PhilHealth and the Department of Health – including instances of conflict of interest involving the family of DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III with the family-owned Doctors Pharmaceuticals Inc. having contracts with the Department of Health, and the PhilHealth regional office renting a Duque-owned building; and with the Secretary’s pattern of failure prompting 14 of us in the Senate to file a resolution seeking his resignation – we had high hopes the shenanigans at PhilHealth would end with a new leadership. Sad to say, how wrong we were.


Continue reading “On the Reported Shouting Match over Corruption at PhilHealth”

As Anti-Terror Law Takes Effect: Yes to Vigilance, No to Disinformation

Now that the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is in effect, the Filipino people are assured of a law that allows the Philippines to mount the needed strong response against the threat of terrorism.

As the one who painstakingly sponsored the measure in the Senate, I will not allow anyone to pervert the legislative intent of the law, thus my commitment to go the extra mile in guarding against possible abuse in its implementation.

It is the responsibility of all Filipinos to see to it the law is implemented properly – meaning, it is meant to go after terrorists and not anyone else. Thus, the efforts of some groups to similarly keep watch against abuses despite the safeguards already in place are very much welcome, so long as they avail of the proper venues and follow safety protocols.

That said, we cannot afford to have disinformation campaigns aimed to make the public reject the Anti-Terrorism Law. Terrorism knows no timing or borders. I hope the day will not come that critics of the law – especially those behind the disinformation drives – will not be at the receiving end of terrorist attacks.


On the Reported Deaths of Jaybee Sebastian, Other High-Profile Bilibid Inmates Due to COVID-19

Certain details of one who has been convicted of a crime after going through a court trial may be generally accessible to the public except for some very isolated cases, mostly due to security considerations.

However, dying of a contagion as dreaded as the coronavirus could subject the victim’s immediate family to undue discrimination, not to mention the stigma that they may suffer from the public.

The Data Privacy Act may actually be applicable in the case of Jaybee Sebastian and other high value PDLs who reportedly succumbed to COVID-19 – although in an inquiry in aid of legislation, we as legislators can ask relevant questions, especially in an executive session.

Unless there is very compelling reason to suspect any foul play – and as of now, there is none – personally, I’d rather focus on more pressing matters than be distracted by the death/s of drug convict/s who had shown no remorse at all by continuing their drug operations even in the confines of the high-security facility of the New Bilibid Prison, right under the noses of prison officials, corrupting those who have no moral fortitude to resist even drug money.