Sa loob ng mga overpriced na ambulansya na binili ng Department of Health (DOH), ay may mga overpriced din na mga kagamitan tulad ng automated external defibrillators (AEDs), mobile phones, dashboard cameras at stretchers.
Isiniwalat ito ni Senador Ping Lacson nitong Miyerkules kasabay ng kanyang muling panawagan sa DOH na gamitin nang tapat at maayos ang kaban ng bayan.
“These are public funds. I augmented the budget of the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) to comply with the Universal Health Care Law. Somehow I feel guilty when I see overpricing,” ani Lacson sa pagdinig ng Senado sa panukalang badyet ng DOH para sa 2022.
Inside the ambulances procured by the Department of Health (DOH) with an overprice of P1 million each are overpriced equipment ranging from automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to mobile phones, dashboard cameras and stretchers.
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson bared these on Wednesday, even as he reiterated his call to the DOH to use public funds more judiciously.
“These are public funds. I augmented the budget of the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) to comply with the Universal Health Care Law. Somehow I feel guilty when I see overpricing,” Lacson said at the DOH’s 2022 budget hearing.
Hindi na nga sapat ay lalo pang pinalupaypay ng korapsyon ang pagtugon ng gobyerno sa lumalalang pananalasa ng Delta variant ng COVID-19.
Ito ang nagdadalamhating pahayag ni Senador Panfilo Lacson sa kasalukuyang estado ng mga hakbang ng pamahalaan sa paglaban sa pandemya kasabay ng pagsasalarawan na nakakapanlumo, nakakadismaya at nakakagigil ang mga nalalantad sa imbestigasyon ng Senado sa mga iregularidad sa pagbili ng mga gamit sa paglaban sa COVID-19.
Isiniwalat ni Lacson sa panayam sa kanya ng ANC na kabilang sa mga iregularidad na ito ay ang nabigong pagtatangka ni dating Department of Budget and Management Procurement Service head Christopher Lao para i-reclassify bilang “confidential” sa ilang mga empleyado ng ahensya.
“While the Delta variant is to be blamed, ang ma-blame mo rin government response. We’re not responding accordingly sa prevailing situation. To make matters worse, may corruption involved. Naroon ang problema,” ayon kay Lacson.
Corruption is weighing down the government’s already insufficient response to the heightened threat from COVID-19 due to the Delta variant of the coronavirus, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson lamented Thursday.
Lacson described as “disheartening, frustrating and revolting” the signs of corruption that have emerged so far in the Senate’s investigation into irregularities in the procurement of medical supplies to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
These irregularities range from the failed attempt of former Department of Budget and Management Procurement Service head Christopher Lao to reclassify some employees as “confidential” to the Food and Drug Administration’s changing the rules on procurement, Lacson said in an interview on ANC.
“While the Delta variant is to be blamed, ang ma-blame mo rin government response. We’re not responding accordingly sa prevailing situation. To make matters worse, may corruption involved. Naroon ang problema (While the Delta variant is to be blamed for our situation now, government response is not free from blame because we’re not responding accordingly to the prevailing situation. To make matters worse, there is corruption involved. There lies the problem),” he said.
Hinamon ni Senador Panfilo Lacson si Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III na putulin na ang pamamayagpag ng mala-sindikatong gawain sa kagawaran gaya ng nakaugalian nang labis-labis na pag-iimbak ng gamot na kadalasang nasisira lamang.
Ang hamon ni Lacson ay Duque ay kasunod ng pagsiwalat ng mambabatas sa tinatayang P2.736 bilyong halaga ng gamot na nasira na o kaya nalalapit na sa pagkasira sa poder ng DOH, kung saan nasa P2.2 bilyon ay naitala sa 2019 lamang.
“We wasted P2.736 billion in taxpayers’ money. What’s the reason for this? Why are we overstocking? Why are we buying medicines near their expiration dates? What does this tell us? I’ve been an investigator all my life. To me, this indicates that there is probably a ‘mafia’ that is well-entrenched – can’t be uprooted,” banggit ni Lacson sa pagdinig ng Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
“Unless the leadership of the DOH will put his foot down and do something about this, we won’t see the end of this overstocking of medicines,” dagdag ni Lacson.
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson on Wednesday challenged Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to put his foot down against the “Mafia-like” activities behind the recurring overstocking of medicines and other irregularities hounding the agency.
Lacson issued the challenge during a Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing where he cited figures showing overstocked, expired and near-expiry medicines amounting to P2.736 billion – including P2.2 billion in 2019 alone.
“We wasted P2.736 billion in taxpayers’ money. What’s the reason for this? Why are we overstocking? Why are we buying medicines near their expiration dates? What does this tell us? I’ve been an investigator all my life. To me, this indicates that there is probably a ‘mafia’ that is well-entrenched – can’t be uprooted,” he said.
“Unless the leadership of the DOH will put his foot down and do something about this, we won’t see the end of this overstocking of medicines,” he added.
Personal na sinaluduhan at hinangaan ni Senador Panfilo Lacson ang mga auditor ng gobyerno sa pagiging listo at maagap ng mga ito sa pagsuri sa kahina-hinalang transaksiyon sa ilang ahensiya na posibleng mauwi sa korapsiyon.
Ayon kay Lacson, kung walang Commission on Audit (COA) na nag-uulat, malayang-malaya ang mga tiwaling opisyal sa pag-abuso at paglustay sa limitado nang pondo mula sa kaban ng bayan.
“Imagine a country without state auditors… kanya kanyang kupit, kanya kanyang kurakot,” banggit ni Lacson sa pamamagitan ng Twitter.
The President should start looking beyond DOH Sec. Francisco Duque III and mind the public sentiment for a change. He was elected by the people whom he has sworn to serve.
Hirap na ang ating mga health workers, na kasama sa mga Pilipinong pinangakuan ng Pangulo na pagsilbihan. Marami sa kanila ay pinagkakaitan ng Special Risk Allowance na nakapaloob sa Bayanihan Act, na Malakanyang mismo ang nakiusap sa amin sa Kongreso na ipasa.
Ang incompetence ay hindi dapat pinapalampas, lalo na sa gitna ng krisis na dulo ng pandemya.
The issue on the DOH’s management of pandemic response funds will definitely be taken up during the deliberations of the DOH’s 2022 budget, once the Senate starts the hearings before approving their budget. This is among the many other issues hounding the agency.
That said, I remember that during DOH Sec. Francisco Duque III’s confirmation hearings at the Commission on Appointments, I asked him some questions on DOH’s supply chain issues and what he intended to do to resolve those issues. He could not answer my questions satisfactorily, if at all.
Am I surprised that he did not even bother to research in spite of his obvious lack of knowledge on the importance of the supply chain in his department? What gives? It’s hubris. He only cares about his boss, the President who, for reasons only they probably know cannot and will not remove him from office in spite of repeated calls from the majority of senators and other sectors.
Sadly, the issues brought to light by the Commission on Audit report, among others, shows that he doesn’t care about the health concerns of the people who he is supposed to serve.
Without details backed by documents or at least sworn statements executed by his witnesses, if any, there may not be sufficient basis for the Senate to conduct a hearing although the Blue Ribbon Committee is allowed to conduct investigation in aid of legislation even without referral.
It now behooves the Chairman to make the call on the issue at hand.
Meantime, the onus is on Sen. Pacquiao at the very least to show some specifics in support of his allegations, which by its nature are serious, not to mention sensitive.
It can better serve the purpose of the expose if relevant documents that he said he has would be submitted to the Senate President or the Blue Ribbon Committee, so we can assess what next move to take on the issues that he presented in yesterday’s virtual press conference.
It is not a new and unique practice. One reason why the vaccination program in other countries, particularly the United States, has become highly successful is that recipients of the vaccines are only informed of the brand of the vaccine once they are already on site and ready to get inoculated.
There is no saying that the choice of the brand is totally disregarded, but those who refuse the vaccine immediately available will have to fall out of line and wait for their preferred brand.
Also, some health experts have pointed out the best vaccine is the one available. Besides, clinical trials are a continuing process so no one can really conclude with finality which vaccine brand is better than the other.
Habang hinihintay ang pagdating ng maramihang suplay ng bakuna sa bansa laban sa COVID-19, dapat nang maglunsad ng malawakang kampanya ang Department of Health (DOH) para mapalakas ang tiwala ng publiko sa mga ito.
Ito ay ipinaalala ni Senador Panfilo Lacson na nagbabala na maaaring masayang ang dumating na bakuna dahil maraming Pilipino ang walang tiwala rito.
“What our officials including Health Sec. Francisco Duque III should do is improve the public’s trust in vaccines, instead of just announcing when the vaccines will arrive. Besides, if very few Filipinos are willing to be vaccinated, the vaccines that actually arrive may go to waste,” banggit ni Lacson sa panayam ng DZRH radio.
While waiting for COVID-19 vaccines to actually arrive, the Department of Health needs to mount an information drive to improve the public’s trust in vaccines, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said Sunday.
Lacson warned of the possibility that the vaccines that arrive may go to waste mainly because many Filipinos have low trust in them.
“What our officials including Health Sec. Francisco Duque III should do is to improve the public’s trust in vaccines, instead of just announcing when the vaccines will arrive. Besides, if very few Filipinos are willing to be vaccinated, the vaccines that actually arrive may go to waste,” he said in an interview on DZRH radio.
Ituring na katuwang ang pribadong sektor at mga lokal na pamahalaan sa programang pagbabakuna ng pamahalaan laban sa COVID-19, sa halip na tratuhin sila bilang kakompetensiya.
Kasabay nito, nanawagan si Senador Panfilo Lacson na mas palakasin ang partisipasyon ng pribadong sektor at mga lokal na pamahalaan sa naturang programa sa pamamagitan ng pagluluwag sa mga ito na makaangkat at maisagawa ang proseso ng pagbabakuna.
Ang kailangan lamang umano ay matiyak ang regular na koordinasyon ng mga ito sa mga mangangasiwa sa programa, ang Department of Health (DOH) at National Task Force Against COVID-19.
“One common mistake that every administration commits is treating the private sector as competitors through over-regulation instead of partners especially during the time of crisis such as this pandemic that we are confronting now,” banggit ni Lacson.
“Let’s face the reality that the private sector does not go through the same bureaucratic delays that their counterpart in the public sector suffers from,” obserbasyon ng mambabatas.
The private sector and local government units (LGUs) should be treated as partners and not competitors in the national government’s COVID-19 vaccination program by being allowed to actively and even proactively procure and administer vaccines, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson stressed Monday.
Lacson said this is as long as they are in close coordination and under the supervision of the Department of Health and National Task Force Against COVID-19.
“One common mistake that every administration commits is treating the private sector as competitors through over-regulation instead of partners especially during the time of crisis such as this pandemic that we are confronting now,” he said.
“Let’s face the reality that the private sector does not go through the same bureaucratic delays that their counterpart in the public sector suffers from,” he added.
Sino kaya ang nagdikta sa Department of Health (DOH) kaya mataas ang presyo ng Sinovac vaccines na dati nitong binanggit?
Tinanong ito ni Senador Panfilo Lacson matapos na nagsabing “not totally acceptable” ang paliwanag ni DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III na hinanap niya lang sa Google ang presyo ng nabanggit na bakuna.
“Unverified reports that some shenanigans working behind the scene might have fed the DOH the unreasonably high price of the Sinovac vaccine could lend credence to the attempt to dupe the Filipino taxpayers even during a pandemic,” pagbubunyag ng mambabatas.
Lumalabas kasi na masyadong malayo ang isiniwalat na presyo na isiniwalat ng DOH kumpara sa mga report na naglalabasan.
“As early as Oct. 14, 2020, it was reported that the price of Sinovac vaccines in Indonesia was about P683. There is also a price range of P650 to P700 per dose that was relayed to us. This is quite far from the P3,629.50 submitted by the DOH to the Senate finance committee in December last year for the 2021 budget deliberations,” nagtatakang pahayag ng senador.
Who fed the Department of Health the unreasonable prices of Sinovac vaccines in the Philippines?
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson asked this Monday as he deemed not totally acceptable the explanation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III that they “Googled” the price of Sinovac vaccines.
“Unverified reports that some shenanigans working behind the scene might have fed the DOH the unreasonably high price of the Sinovac vaccine could lend credence to the attempt to dupe the Filipino taxpayers even during a pandemic,” he said.
“As early as Oct. 14, 2020, it was reported that the price of Sinovac vaccines in Indonesia was about P683. There is also a price range of P650 to P700 per dose that was relayed to us. This is quite far from the P3,629.50 submitted by the DOH to the Senate finance committee in December last year for the 2021 budget deliberations,” Lacson added.
Huwag nang gawing kumplikado ang puwede namang maging simple.
Ito ang panawagan ni Senador Panfilo Lacson sa mga awtoridad kaugnay sa pagpasok sa bansa ng mga donasyon na COVID-19 vaccines na mayroon nang Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) sa mga lugar na may mahigpit na regulatory agencies.
Ang panawagan ay ginawa ng mambabatas sa pangatlong pagdinig na isinagawa ng Senado bilang Committee of the Whole tungkol sa vaccination program ng pamahalaan.
“This is critical because there are many associations abroad that may donate vaccines to their sister cities in the Philippines. Would it not be more practical to ensure the goods reach the intended recipients directly under strict supervision and guidance by health authorities, instead of coursing the goods through the Department of Health and having the DOH distribute them?” banggit ni Lacson.
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson sought simplified procedures Friday for the entry of donated COVID-19 vaccines, especially those with Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from countries or territories with stringent regulatory agencies.
Lacson made the call during the third hearing of the Senate, convening as a Committee of the Whole, on the government’s vaccination program.
“This is critical because there are many associations abroad that may donate vaccines to their sister cities in the Philippines. Would it not be more practical to ensure the goods reach the intended recipients directly under strict supervision and guidance by health authorities, instead of coursing the goods through the Department of Health and having the DOH distribute them?” he said.
“Besides, many local government units like Baguio City already have their own cold storage facilities for the vaccines, as their local leaders had the foresight to act accordingly. Allowing such donated vaccines to go directly to the LGUs instead of having to go through the logistical requirements of the DOH and Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 would also avoid the prospect of double handling and additional costs,” he added.
Nangangamoy ‘tong-pats’ ang lumulutang na presyo ng bakuna ng Sinovac sa Pilipinas, kumpara sa presyo nito sa ibang bansa.
Ayon kay Senador Panfilo Lacson, ito ay kung pagbabatayan ang $5 kada turok na presyo sa ibang mga bansang naunang nakipagtransaksyon sa kumpanya para masigurado ang suplay at sa $38 (mahigit P1,800) per dose na ibinabalitang presyo sa Pilipinas.
Pero ayon kay Lacson, kung sakali mang totoo na ang sinabi ni Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. na P650 kada turok ang magiging presyuhan sa bansa, ibig sabihin nito ay nagawa ng Senado ang obligasyon nito para sa makatuwirang presyo ng bakuna.
“If it’s true that government is now dropping the price of Sinovac vaccine from P1,847.25 per dose to only P650, the Senate has probably done our share to save our people billions of pesos in the country’s vaccination program. Netizens can pat themselves on the back,” paliwanag pa ni Lacson sa kanyang Twitter account.
Sharp differences in the prices of Sinovac vaccines in the Philippines and elsewhere may smack of corruption, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said Sunday.
Lacson noted that while Sinovac’s product may cost as little as $5 per dose, it may cost as much as a whopping $38 (more than P1,800) in the Philippines.
But Lacson said that if it is true the government is dropping the price of Sinovac vaccines to only P650 per dose, the Senate may have done its share to save billions of pesos in the government’s vaccination efforts.
“If it’s true that government is now dropping the price of Sinovac vaccine from P1,847.25 per dose to only P650, the Senate has probably done our share to save our people billions of pesos in the country’s vaccination program. Netizens can pat themselves on the back,” he said on his Twitter account.
It’s bad enough that the national government virtually controls which brand/s of vaccines to procure. Pati ba naman ang pagpili kung ano ituturok sa braso ng mga Pilipino, hindi pa rin pwede mamili ang Pilipino?
Bakit ko naman pipiliin ang brand na 50% lang ang efficacy at wala man lang application for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), against other brands with 79% and/or 95% efficacy and have pending EUA approval from the Food and Drug Administration?
Having said that, we can only pray and hope that the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Department of Health properly implement the vaccination plan they laid out during our Senate hearing Monday.
While the plan may sound good, the difference is in the implementation – the reaction and responses to emergencies. Without proper execution, a plan no matter how good it is written and presented, won’t mean anything.
At the first hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on the government’s vaccination efforts, Sen. Lacson detailed how incompetence and lack of urgency slowed down the government’s efforts to procure COVID vaccines.
Dapat na pagtuunan ng pansin ng PhilHealth ang paglilinis sa aspetong pananalapi laban sa katiwalian at kawalan ng kakayahan, habang ipinagliban ang mas mataas na singil sa kontribusyon ng mga miyembro nito.
Ayon kay Senador Panfilo Lacson, hindi tamang lagakan ng karagdagang pondo ang ahensiya buhat sa kontribusyon ng mga miyembro hanggang hindi pa natitiyak na hindi mapupunta lamang sa mga bulsa ng kung sino ang mga ito.
Idiniin ng senador na maling-mali ang pagpapataw ng karagdagang singil sa mga miyembro kung babalikan ang mga nakaraang karima-rimarim na naganap sa kaban ng ahensiya buhat sa mga kamay ng mga dating nangasiwa.
“It is right to defer the premium hike, at least so that it can review its procedures to get rid of corruption and incompetence. Why punish members with higher premiums for the benefit of the corrupt and the incompetent?” banggit ng mambabatas sa panayam ng TeleRadyo.
“Hiking the premium for individual members is extremely ill-advised, especially as we have yet to resolve where the money lost to corruption went,” diin ng senador.
The deferment of the increase in monthly premium payments of Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) members should allow the state insurer the needed time to rid itself of incompetence and corruption, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said Tuesday.
Lacson said the plan to increase premiums for PhilHealth members is very ill-advised especially due to the huge losses it incurred due to the two scourges.
“It is right to defer the premium hike, at least so that it can review its procedures to get rid of corruption and incompetence. Why punish members with higher premiums for the benefit of the corrupt and the incompetent?” he said in an interview on TeleRadyo.
“Hiking the premium for individual members is extremely ill-advised, especially as we have yet to resolve where the money lost to corruption went,” he added.
Isinusulong ni Senador Panfilo Lacson ang pag-amyenda sa ilang nilalaman ng P4.5 trilyon na gastusin para sa susunod na taon, upang pondohan ang mga programang tutugon sa epekto ng COVID-19.
Ayon kay Lacson, kailangang masigurado ang pondo para sa pagbangon ng mga sektor ng kalusugan at ekonomiya bunga ng pagkalugmok na inabot ng mga ito sa mahabang panahon ng pananalasa sa bansa ng nabanggit na pandemya.
“First things first. We should first address the pandemic and its effects: Health issues, development, recovery of the economy. Those are what we need to address in the 2021 budget,” paliwanag ni Lacson sa panayam sa ABS-CBN News Channel.
“I want the budget to be responsive to the sign of the times. I want it to be responsive to the budget philosophy of Reset, Rebound, Recover. These are what we need for 2021. Not the multi-purpose buildings, not the double appropriations, not the right-of-way payments that cannot be accomplished anyway,” dagdag ng mambabatas.
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson on Wednesday bared details of proposed amendments to the P4.5-trillion 2021 budget bill to make sure it is responsive to the sign of the times.
Lacson said these proposed amendments include augmenting the budgets to ensure health, development and economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Also, Lacson said he is open to passing a special budget or special law like the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act to allow the President to realign funds to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.
“I want the budget to be responsive to the sign of the times. I want it to be responsive to the budget philosophy of Reset, Rebound, Recover. These are what we need for 2021. Not the multi-purpose buildings, not the double appropriations, not the right-of-way payments that cannot be accomplished anyway,” he said in an interview on ABS-CBN News Channel.
“First things first. We should first address the pandemic and its effects: Health issues, development, recovery of the economy. Those are what we need to address in the 2021 budget,” he added.
In his interpellation of the DOH’s budget for 2021, Sen. Lacson stressed the need to find sources of funds to properly implement the Universal Health Care program. “We passed RA 11223 in February 2019, and it is our obligation as lawmakers to see to it that the law is implemented properly.“
It is relatively easy to pass a law creating new departments. But would it be feasible, and will there be proper funding for it? The Department of Budget and Management says at least P1.5 billion is needed to set up the department. That does not yet include added salaries, capital outlay like office facilities, furniture, vehicles, MOOE, and CIF.
During the first public hearing last January, no less than the stakeholders who served as resource persons also cited concerns about creating a new department for disaster and risk reduction:
First, there is a policy direction for right-sizing the bureaucracy that is already bloated.
Second, the implementation especially of recovery and rehabilitation will be carried out not by the proposed new department but by existing agencies such as the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Department of Health.
Third, we can see that the newly created departments like the Department of Information and Communications Technology and the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development cannot be properly funded, or at least are not given the appropriate funding to work properly.
Having said that, a dedicated office under the Office of the President with a Cabinet rank and full authority to mobilize the concerned government agencies before, during and after calamities both natural and man-made – from policy-making and planning all the way to implementation – would do the job with much less funding and minimum number of staff and personnel. In contrast, a council-type organization like the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has a very limited capability mainly because it is merely coordinative.
In an interview on DZBB/GNTV, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
* options on further actions regarding anomalies at PhilHealth
* possible use of questionable sums in DPWH budget to address budget shortage for health care in 2021
If I had my way, as I already said before, based on the three hearings of the Committee of the Whole, there may not be enough evidence to recommend criminal charges against Sec. Duque for the simple reason that like the other members of the PhilHealth Board, he had no hand in the illegal implementation of the IRM; nor was he involved in the procurement of overpriced IT equipment.
However, my colleagues – particularly Senate President Sotto who chaired the COW hearings – would have seen it another way. Since we are a collegial body, we always abide by the rule of the majority.
That said, the Senate Committee of the Whole did include in its recommendation to the President the replacement of Sec. Duque: “To appoint a new Secretary of the Department of Health who has a stronger will to fight corruption within his organization and the agencies under his/her watch.”
In an interview on DZBB/GNTV, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
* charges that may be filed vs accountable PhilHealth execs
* who is the PhilHealth mafia
* remedial legislation
* cooperation of task force led by DOJ
More than rectifying the wrong implementation of the IRM Circular 2020-0007, the accountable officers of PhilHealth who were responsible for the advance payments worth billions of pesos from March to July made to unauthorized HCIs like dialysis centers, maternity care providers, etc., should be made criminally and administratively liable for malversation of public funds (or property) under Art. 217, Chapter 4 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by Sec. 40 or RA 10951, which carries the penalty of reclusion perpetua if the amount involved is in excess of P8.8 million.
The evidence supported by official documents and testimonies provided by resource persons who testified under oath so far gathered by the Senate Committee of the Whole during the threeweeklyhearings are enough to indict people responsible directly or otherwise.
Without tough punitive action against those involved in such shenanigans, we may never see the end of the vicious cycle of corruption that has plagued PhilHealth.
Sen. Lacson’s Opening Statement at the Senate Committee of the Whole Hearing on Corruption at PhilHealth:
Sa nakaraang dalawangaraw na pagdinig ng komite ng buong Senado na ating isinagawa sa kasalukuyan, buong singkad na maghapon nang parehong araw ng Martes, pinaligiran po tayo ng mga sinungaling at mga manloloko. Sabi nga ng nanay ng kasama nating Senator Grace Poe – “Ang sinungaling ay kapatid ng magnanakaw!”
Let me prove what I just said, Mr. President and distinguished colleagues.
Only last week, I asked Fund Management Sector Senior Vice President Renato Limsiaco, Jr., why despite PhilHealth being a withholding tax agent of the BIR, he failed to deduct and withhold from the funds advanced to the private hospitals and other health care institutions the taxes due them under the National Internal Revenue Code.
The request of health workers to place Mega Manila under ECQ for at least two weeks is a valid request that Malacañang should seriously consider. Putting human lives above all considerations is a no-brainer, given the choice.
Having said that, some adjustments can be made in the distribution of government subsidy to the most basic necessities of those who need it the most.
What is important is to prevent an obvious pattern of upsurge in the daily coronavirus infection.
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.
In an interview on Abante Radyo Tabloidista, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
* ABS-CBN franchise [30:25]
* Fake news vs Anti-Terrorism Law [37:22]
* Cops accused of violating the law [16:07]
* Dealing with COVID at home [21:20]
* DOH issues in handling COVID pandemic [24:05]
In an interview on PTV-4’s Laging Handa public briefing, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
* Why the Anti-Terrorism Bill is urgent [21:12]
* DOH leadership woes in dealing with COVID-19 threat [23:15]
* National ID’s value amid pandemic [24:56]
* Implementing the GMRC Law [28:03]
Before a special session is called, it is best for the Executive Department and Congress to first agree on a mutually acceptable legislative measure to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the social and economic problems that beset our country. That way, we won’t be wasting our time.
However, as long as the Department of Health is incompetently led and the health issue cannot be addressed appropriately, we will be in a Sisyphus-like situation. Worse, we will just be throwing away our country’s very limited resources that could bring us neck-deep in debt with no solution in sight.
It’s bad enough that we will be forced to scrounge and even borrow just to augment our already limited funds. It’s infuriating if we lose it all – and more – to incompetence.
It’s about time. I can only hope that this time around, the investigation will bear fruit and find those concerned liable and suffer the consequences of their misdeeds in taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis for self-aggrandizement.
In an interview on DWIZ, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
* possible challenge vs Anti-Terror Bill before the Supreme Court [14:31]
* Sen. Drilon voted yes to anti-terror bill [7:04]
* blame game in COVID health workers’ P1M death benefits [29:53]
* Sec. Duque’s other obligations to health workers under Bayanihan Act [35:39]
* ‘removal’ of safeguard vs overpricing in Bayanihan 2 [44:33]