Tag: Senate President Tito Sotto

On the Meeting with Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez Jr.

Last Tuesday, I received a message from Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, relaying Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr.’s request for a meeting to apologize personally for the things he mentioned about me in his presentation during the T3 Zoom meeting last week – which I mentioned in my manifestation during the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing last Jan. 15. He also promised to brief me and disclose all the details of their vaccine procurement, including the prices of the different brands.

Then came the instruction of President Rodrigo Duterte to Sec. Galvez to brief Senate President Vicente Sotto III. I suggested to them that SP Sotto and I just go together, along with Sen. Ronald de la Rosa.

Sec. Galvez’s briefing clarified a lot of issues and concerns raised by the senators that have remained unresolved until last night. We advised him to explain in tomorrow’s hearing the same way that he did last night, without violating the terms of the agreement with the vaccine suppliers.

On our part, we committed to honor and respect those terms so as not to put in jeopardy the deliveries of the vaccines that he said will start within the first quarter of this year.

I accepted his apology. He promised to be more careful in issuing statements.

We were shown the documents. And we have no doubt about Sec. Galvez’s integrity and his sincerity to accomplish his task.

That said, we advised Sec. Galvez to mind his back, front, left and right sides. He may have the best of intentions but there may be people pushing him out front to do the talking and explaining to take advantage of his credibility while pursuing their own interests. He assured us that he will make it very hard for those people to even have an opening for that opportunity.

We share the same goal – to ensure our people are vaccinated against COVID-19, with no room for overpricing and other irregularities. The executive and legislative departments must work together in this regard.


On the NTF-ELCAC Funds in the 2021 Budget

Image Credit: Manila Bulletin

I’ll join Senate President Sotto’s call to retain the P16.4-billion allocations to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

The fund is not even at the disposal of the security sector since it is part of the Special Purpose Fund under the Assistance to Local Government Units (ALGU) and is intended to hold and develop barangays that are cleared of New People’s Army (NPA) influence.

As such, it will go to development programs such as farm-to-market roads and livelihood, as part of confidence-building to prevent the insurgency problem from returning.

With this, affected barangays will no longer be vulnerable to attempts by the NPA to recruit members especially from indigenous peoples. Pagkakataon ito pati sa mga NPA sa mga lugar na ito na magbagong-buhay.

The insurgency problem is more than 50 years old, easily the oldest in Asia. It is time we take the needed steps to address the insurgency problem.


Read: Senate Resolution 533, Seeking an Inquiry on Issues Surrounding the Malampaya Deep Water Gas-to-Water Project

Image: CTTO

“Given the critical role of Malampaya in the country’s energy and overall national development, it is imperative for Congress and the Filipino public to be apprised of the: (1) plans of government for SC 38 given its looming expiration and Malampaya’s declining output; and (2) compliance of government and the consortium with PD 87 and SC 38.” (co-author with Senators Sotto and Gatchalian)

Read: Senate Bill 1844, Authorizing the President to Expedite the Processing and Issuance of National and Local Permits and Licenses

“This bill seeks to authorize the President, during the time of national emergency, to suspend the requirements for national and local permits, licenses and certifications, and to streamline and expedite the process for the issuance of the same. While this may be a small step, it surely can create a significant impact on all enterprises. Likewise, this move could ease the already heavy burden of the businesses that were heavily hit and continuously being beaten by the gargantuan effects of the pandemic. This Act could be one of the needed breathers of the crumbling enterprises. And ultimately, this will redound to the benefit of our economy and encourage investors to capitalize in the country.” (co-author with Senators Sotto, Recto, Zubiri and Drilon)

On the Senate Committee of the Whole’s Recommendations on DOH Sec. Duque

Image: CTTO

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.”


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#PINGterview: Mga Pwede Kasuhan sa PhilHealth, Tukoy Na

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

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Lacson: Roof Leaks that Reportedly Destroyed Records in PhilHealth Region 1 Office May Not be from Natural Causes

Roof leak at PhilHealth’s Region 1 office. Images CTTO

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.

Continue reading “Lacson: Roof Leaks that Reportedly Destroyed Records in PhilHealth Region 1 Office May Not be from Natural Causes”

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.


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Simple, Cheap and Effective: Contact Tracing Solutions from LGUs that the DOH Can Adopt

contact tracing

Simple technologies that we now take for granted may yet be the biggest help in fighting the spread of COVID-19, as shown by the initiatives of at least two local governments.

In Carmona, Cavite, the local government under Mayor Roy Loyola has developed a contact tracing app – the Carmona COVID-19 Tracker. The app, which works on Android and iOS, can use the mobile phone’s GPS to track users’ location history.

The app allows users to log interactions with other people; and do self-assessment if they experience symptoms. In just a few days of implementation, the local government has already signed up 42,000 out of the municipality’s 97,557 residents. For those without smartphones, the local government’s barangay and police personnel can input the information for them.

Meanwhile, in Baguio City, the local government under Mayor Benjamin Magalong is doing contact tracing using the EndCovid-19 system, which relies on the geographical information system (GIS) platform to plot the areas where possible COVID-19 carriers live – similar to that which he introduced when he was Cordillera regional police chief.

Combined with cognitive interviews and analytical tools, the system has made Baguio City a model for contact tracing.

With these technologies, we can potentially save P11.7 billion being asked by the Department of Health for contact tracers. I share Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s sentiment that there are more practical uses for the amount. These may include livelihood programs for those affected by the COVID-triggered lockdowns, among others.

Our national agencies, including the Department of Health, need not look far for contact tracing solutions that are effective, yet are not intrusive. Instead, they must take a cue from our LGUs. Especially given our limited resources, they can do no less.


#PINGterview: Mensahe sa Mga Pasaway sa Quarantine; Testing at Contact Tracing, Kulang Pa Rin!

In an interview on DZRH, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
* post-ECQ scenarios [1:01]
* continued lack of testing, contact tracing [2:46]
* Senate teleconferencing due to COVID-19 [12:59]
* Pagcor allowing reopening of POGO [21:48]
* mensahe sa mga pasaway [28:21]

Continue reading “#PINGterview: Mensahe sa Mga Pasaway sa Quarantine; Testing at Contact Tracing, Kulang Pa Rin!”