Nanawagan si independent presidential aspirant Sen. Ping Lacson sa Philhealth na pansamantalang ipagpaliban ang napipintong pagtaas ng kanilang premium sa Hunyo para makahinga sa dagdag gastusin ang mga miyembro na lubhang naapektuhan ng pandemya.
Bagama’t pinahihintulutan ang PhilHealth na itaas ang kanilang premium sa ilalim ng Universal Health Care Act, hindi aniya napapanahon para gawin ito.
“It is within the provisions of the Universal Health Care Act to increase, although it may not be advisable at this point in time because we are still reeling from the effects of the pandemic. Baka hindi timely,” ani Lacson sa isinagawang presscon sa Cagayan de Oro City nitong Huwebes ng hapon.
The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) may need to defer its planned premium rate hike in June to allow members whose livelihoods were affected by the pandemic to recover, presidential aspirant Sen. Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson said.
Lacson said that while PhilHealth is allowed to raise its premium under the Universal Health Care Act, doing so now is untimely and not advisable.
“It is within the provisions of the Universal Health Care Act to increase, although it may not be advisable at this point in time because we are still reeling from the effects of the pandemic. Baka hindi timely (It may not be timely),” Lacson said at a press conference in Cagayan de Oro City Thursday afternoon.
What is wrong with PhilHealth? Everything. First, it should be headed by somebody who knows accounting and fund management, not a health practitioner, much less a former law enforcer or a retired general. Therefore, it should be chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Finance (DOF), not of the Department of Health (DOH). PhilHealth deals with health insurance, not health.
Second, the Senate inquiry on PhilHealth anomalies as a consequence of my “PhilWealth and the Department of Wealth” privilege speech in 2019 resulted in the filing of criminal and administrative chares against top PhilHealth officials after we transmitted to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra voluminous documents and other pieces of evidence that we gathered during the Senate Committee of the Whole hearings.
Yet, more than two years had passed, and those cases are still pending either in the Ombudsman or Sandiganbayan. As long as the wheels of justice grind at an irritatingly slow pace and the conviction and graft and corruption cases remains very low, we cannot expect corruption to abate, no matter how many Senate inquiries we conduct.
That said, the Senate can only do so much in the exercise of our legislative and oversight mandate. There is no saying here that we are powerless. I am only trying to say that we always do our part in this regard.
Mas magiging epektibo at matagumpay ang mga hakbang para basagin ang “vicious cycle” ng korapsiyon, kung makikiisa at magiging aktibo ang publiko sa laban na ito.
Isa ito sa mga nakikitang solusyon ni Senador Panfilo Lacson, sa harap ng katotohanan na naging ugali na ng mga nasasangkot na magpalamig at manahimik lamang muna hanggang sa tuluyan nang makalimutan ng tao ang kanilang ginawa.
“Some officials have lost all sense of shame. Even if charges are filed against them, they just lie low because they know that once the issue dies down and the public no longer thinks much of it, they can go back to their old ways,” banggit ni Lacson sa panayam ng Radyo Katribu.
“That said, the vicious cycle of corruption is not limited to those in government. It takes two to tango: those who corrupt – and the public who wittingly or otherwise turns a blind eye,” dagdag ng mambabatas.
It is high time to end the vicious cycle involving corruption cases where those involved lie low until the issue dies down – and the public can play a more active role to achieve this, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said Friday.
Lacson, who has actively participated in many Senate investigations involving corruption cases, said those involved have become brazen in pocketing public funds by exploiting such a cycle.
“Some officials have lost all sense of shame. Even if charges are filed against them, they just lie low because they know that once the issue dies down and the public no longer thinks much of it, they can go back to their old ways,” he said in an interview on Radyo Katribu.
“That said, the vicious cycle of corruption is not limited to those in government. It takes two to tango: those who corrupt – and the public who wittingly or otherwise turns a blind eye,” he added.
Say, if public funds were spent not for COVID-19 as required under the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism but for dialysis centers and infirmaries and which are clearly not authorized, it can still be declared as liquidated – but it does not mean funds were legally disbursed.
That is why, as we already know, some former and current PhilHealth officials presently face charges from the DOJ-led task force.
This is one good reason why the Senate must keep going in performing our oversight function as our collective responsibility to the People of the Philippines.
Modesty aside, most of the pieces of evidence used by the National Bureau of Investigation were culled from the materials that we submitted to the Department of Justice.
We can only hope that this case reaches its logical conclusion to make all those who, without a shred of conscience in their bones, took advantage of a deadly virus to fleece government of funds intended to respond to an unprecedented health crisis that we continue to grapple with.
That said, there is more reason that we should trust DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra and his people at the DOJ and NBI.
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.
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
I want to read the full text of the report first so I can make a more intelligent analysis and responsive comments.
That said, let me just say at the outset that obviously, the materials that we provided and shared with Sec. Guevarra and the composite task force were put into good use at the very least. This is good reason enough to feel gratified that we did our share in taking the first big step in making those criminally and administratively liable for the misuse and abuse of public monies accountable.
At least, for a change, we can hope that these “vultures” will suffer for their misdeeds to satisfy their greed at the expense of the sick and the unhealthy among our countrymen.
At the hearing on the proposed 2021 budget, Sen. Lacson stressed the need for greater government support for research and development, especially in the fight against COVID-19. He also raised questions on:
* Information that PhilHealth is not getting full allocations from the sin tax
* Why P30B in COVID-19 response funds remain undisbursed
* NEDA’s ‘Resiliency’ planning
Since PhilHealth is a creation of a law passed by Congress, the President has no statutory power to reorganize the agency, so he actually needs an act of Congress to delegate to him such power or authority.
And if the President’s intention is to cleanse PhilHealth of scalawags and misfits, he may not need that delegated authority anymore as he has the Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice and other instrumentalities of government at his disposal.
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.
In an interview on DZAR, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
* Olongapo court’s order for ‘early’ release of US Marine Scott Pemberton
* DOH Secretary Duque’s ‘disagreement’ with Senate committee report on PhilHealth
* talks on Revolutionary Government
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.”
“We must thus exert our utmost authority and vigilance to rid PhilHealth of undesirables and, punish to the fullest extent of the law, criminals… Less than this, we cannot allow.” – Senate Committee Report 107, by the Senate Committee of the Whole. Sen. Lacson is one of the sponsors of the Committee Report.
Removing all the regional vice presidents of PhilHealth may be easier ordered than implemented, considering that a number of them are protected by the civil service law. This is not to mention that it is unjust and unfair to those who are not involved in shenanigans in PhilHealth.
As a former chief of the National Bureau of Investigation, he should have no trouble coordinating with the powerhouse task force led by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, his former boss, to implement much-needed reforms in PhilHealth.
I hope he will not fall victim to manipulation by parties inside and outside of the agency who have caused the state insurer to lose billions of pesos to corruption – not just for his sake, but for all Filipinos covered by PhilHealth.
Atty. del Rosario’s irrevocable resignation is one of many reasons to hope for some good things to come in view of the ongoing DOJ-led Task Force investigating the recent PhilHealth anomalies. The paying members and all taxpayers who contribute to the state health insurance fund surely deserve a break from the cyclical corruption involving its top executives.
DOJ Sec. Guevarra being on top of the situation, with full support being extended by the President, is something that we did not see in past investigations of PhilHealth anomalies.
We can only pray and hope that the renewed effort will be sustained all the way to its logical conclusion.
On PCEO Ricardo Morales:
I feel sorry for PCEO Morales, not for anything else but for his health condition. I hate to think that the stress brought about by the intense hearings of the Senate Committee of the Whole may have taken a toll on his already infirm health condition.
In spite of his possible complicity that could make him face some serious legal problems stemming from the report of the Senate Committee of the Whole, I still wish that he wins his bout against cancer and recovers.
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
Some people are definitely making a killing out of the misery brought upon our people by the coronavirus, coming as it does in many forms we cannot even imagine.
We have seen the PhilHealth’s illegal advance payments to unauthorized health care institutions and grossly overpriced procurement of IT equipment – not to mention its doctoring of financial records.
At the Department of Health, we continue to be confronted by issues we hate to hear, but which we now know anyway – the DOH’s “double-the-price” purchases of PPEs and face masks and probably even face shields.
Yet, as we hear the Secretary of Health saying that the pandemic is a “blessing in disguise,” we know for sure we haven’t seen the worse for our suffering countrymen, in terms of health and economic well-being.
The roof leaks that reportedly destroyed documents and records at the office of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) in Region 1 do not appear to be from natural causes, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said Saturday.
Lacson, citing information reaching him, said the leaks occurred in selected areas of what was supposed to be a newly occupied building by PhilHealth, whose personnel moved in only last December.
“There were indications the roof leak was not due to natural causes. The information I got is that there was an inventory of documents when the leaks occurred, particularly at the IT and accounting departments,” he said in an interview on DWIZ.
He added the PACC personnel who were examining the records were surprised that the leak suddenly occurred. “A video of the incident shows the ceiling was new. How come there was a leak?” he noted.
After her 2004 “victory,” Mrs. Arroyo rewarded PhilHealth president Duque with an appointment as DOH Secretary.
Fast forward to 2020, where under new PCEO Ricardo Morales – and Duque as ex-officio chairman – PhilHealth tried to collect premiums from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), notwithstanding their classification as a special sector. This amid a flawed if not perverted implementation of its Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) for health care institutions handling COVID-19 cases, gross overpricing in its procurement of IT equipment, and the doctoring of its financial statements.
As for Sec. Duque, he has stayed too long in the DOH and PhilHealth in different capacities. He admitted in a public hearing that he has given his best but it wasn’t good enough.
More than public interest, public health is imperiled with Sec. Duque at the helm of DOH. Notwithstanding the trust and confidence reposed on him by the appointing authority, Filipinos deserve a good, competent, honest and capable DOH Secretary.
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 Securities and Exchange Commission issued a certification which I read during last week’s hearing that B. Braun Avitum Dialysis Center Inc is not registered as a corporation. Unless they show their documents to the contrary and validated by SEC, I will have to stand by the government agency’s issued document.
Having said that, I also read into the records of the Committee of the Whole the SEC registration of B. Braun Medical Supplies Inc.
Nevertheless, nothing can justify the release of funds in the aggregate amount of at least P45 million to B. Braun Avitum Dialysis Center Inc. that has not catered to a single COVID-19 patient and with such record speed, compared to more deserving HCIs, especially government hospitals catering to COVID patients which up to now have not received any payment in relation to PhilHealth Circular 2020-0007, which is its specific intent and purpose.
When he appears on Tuesday, I’ll ask him, being the incumbent ex-officio chairman of PhilHealth who was present during the shouting match in their last board meeting that effectively triggered these controversies, why he has been very quiet in spite of all the anomalies being openly discussed with so many unanswered questions involving highly questionable transactions by PhilHealth in the procurement of IT equipment, IRM funds distribution and manipulation of the agency’s financial statements which no less than COA has red-flagged on top of recurring disallowances and suspension in billions of pesos year in and year out.
I’ll ask him what he intends to do or recommend to the President.
In interviews with Senate media and on ABS-CBN TeleRadyo, Sen. Lacson answered questions on: * favorable treatment by PhilHealth officials of B Braun Avitum Dialysis Center * discrimination in IRM, optional liquidation of funds and more questionable schemes
* Senate to share findings with parallel investigations by the executive branch
At the Aug. 11, 2020 hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole regarding corruption at PhilHealth, Sen. Lacson bared more irregularities involving issues such as the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism and procurement of IT equipment. He also called for a “special special audit” of PhilHealth – and called out a PhilHealth executive for alluding to investigators as “kampon ni Satanas.”
Their failure to attend Tuesday’s hearing is their loss, not the Senate’s, simply because they won’t be there to respond to new issues to be brought up by resource persons and some new incriminating documents in our possession.
Having said that, I wish PhilHealth President-CEO Morales well in his fight against the Big C. In all sincerity, I join his family in praying for his recovery. It is unfortunate that these new corruption issues have exploded at a time when his health condition is at a low point.
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed the government in a very precarious situation as in a tightrope-like balancing act between health and economic issues, which presents a no win-all situation.
That is why it is revolting to discover so much unabated corruption in PhilHealth involving billions that could have been put into good use in adequately addressing at least the issue of health.
Having said that, I would like to believe, as often expressed by the country’s economic managers, that we continue to benefit from our strong economic fundamentals which can pull us through this crisis, until such time that a vaccine that has guaranteed efficacy is finally developed to address the pandemic.
Recent developments have given us a sneak peek into the extent of corruption at the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I thus pose this challenge to the corrupt elements in PhilHealth: Declare a moratorium on corruption, at least during the pandemic. Who knows, they might actually learn that it feels good not to be corrupt, and thus develop an aversion to corruption.
Having said that, I also encourage those in PhilHealth who fight corruption in their own little way – the officials and rank-and-file who continue to provide information and documents – not to tire of blowing the whistle on corruption, even if we may not immediately see the results of their acts.
A corruption-free – and more importantly, corruption-averse – PhilHealth will not only ensure much-needed health benefits for all Filipinos in the long run. In the immediate term, it will ease the concerns of lawmakers, myself included, that the budget we pass for PhilHealth to do its job will not be lost to greed.
In an interview with Senate media, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
* PhilHealth officials evasive answers at Senate hearing
* Security concerns of prospective witnesses
* Gen. Morales, misled o co-opted?
And for good reason. PhilHealth is a murky, stinking swamp that many of its good and well-meaning people from the officials to their rank-and-file employees want drained, not just of some corrupt but well-entrenched officials who do not seem to run out of malevolent schemes to enrich themselves, but of a deeply rooted, mafia-like syndicate that controls the resources of the corporation, and habitually manipulate its financial records, that even the COA seems helpless in the conduct of their regular audit.
If we look closely enough, the story only revolves around the same cast of characters – a circle of high-ranking officials who manage to hog their seats despite the change of leadership and detailed anomalies that we already unearthed in the past.
In an interview with Senate media, Sen. Lacson answers questions on: * Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on corruption at PhilHealth on Aug. 4
* Calls for DOH Secretary Duque’s resignation
* Medical frontliners’ plight
I would say, the syndicate is back with a vengeance – or at least its core group has never left.
It is revolting to see the PhilHealth mafia very much active and still in control of the already depleted resources of the agency, made worse by blatant manipulation of its financial statements. They must have mastered the art of influence-peddling as they seem to continue to gain access to the “corridors of power.”
“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.”
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]
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]
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.
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.
At the hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on the government’s response against COVID-19, Sen. Lacson relayed to the appropriate officials some questions from the public on the tests by PhilHealth and Philippine Red Cross. “We’re not finding fault here… Nang lumabas na 45% ng tests ang na-conduct ng Red Cross, maraming natuwa (kasi ang) impression na dumating sa kanila, libre. Mabuti at maliwanagan ang kababayan natin na may protocols na dapat sundin.”
For his part, PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales said they will publish guidelines to clarify the issue on who can qualify for free COVID-19 testing under PhilHealth, “so the public will be informed.”
Yet, Lacson noted PhilHealth is one of the top GOCCs in terms of subsidies from the government. “Pinakamalaking subsidized ng gobyerno and PhilHealth. And here we are, hearing so many anomalies, monies going to the pockets of a few. Hindi ba nakakagalit yan?”