Senator Christopher Go on Monday said he recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte to expand the scope of the investigation of Task Force-PhilHealth to include other national agencies, including government-owned and controlled corporations, that are fraught with allegations of mismanagement and corruption.
“I told Duterte not to limit the task force probe to PhilHealth. If needed, there should also be a task force in other agencies to expedite and charge (those liable). We can tap the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit] and Civil Service Commission to suspend, to conduct a lifestyle check and audit, to investigate, to charge and send to jail those who should be jailed,” Go said.
On Sept. 14, the multi-agency task force led by the Department of Justice submitted its initial report to the Office of the President, recommending that criminal and administrative charges be filed against seven senior PhilHealth officials.
When asked about Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who is chairman of the PhilHealth board, Go said the President continues to have faith in him.
But he said the PhilHealth investigation is continuing to find more evidence against others involved in corrupion.
The senator also said they had discussed the need to review existing laws to increase the penalties for crimes related to corruption and illegal drugs, when congressional leaders met with the President on Sept. 16.
“We need harsher penalties to serve as more effective deterrent to crimes. While we consistently avoid harsher penalties to uphold human rights, we also need to protect the rights of every Filipino to live a life that is free from fear of corruption, criminality and illegal drugs,” Go said.
Go also said the President is also open to abolishing or privatizing PhilHealth if systemic corruption in the agency is not weeded out.
Meanwhile Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon rallied behind the proposal of Senate President Vicente Sotto III to name as the ex officio chairman of the PhilHealth board the secretary of Finance instead of the secretary of Health.
“There is a structural defect at PfhilHealth that can be repairedthrough law and that is the chairmanship should be with the secretary of inance and the member of the Board should include the Insurance
Commission so that the corporation, as the country’s primary health insurance agency, can thrive,” Drilon said.
Drilon cited the amendment to the charter of the Social Security System, which the President signed last year.
He said the amendments include the designation of the secretary of Finance as chairman.
“We should do the same in PhilHealth. Similar to SSS, PhilHealth is an insurance organization. It provides insurance protection to our people against unfunded health expenses. It is basically an insurance issue,” he said.
Drilon said the President is “sufficiently equipped” to reorganize, streamline and even abolish or privatize PhilHealth.
“The law today is sufficient and equips the executive branch with the power to reorganize PhilHealth to achieve the policy and purpose to provide our people with health insurance under the Universal Health Care Act,” Drilon said.
He considered as “totally unnecessary” previous calls for emergency powerw for the President to reform PhilHealth.
“There is sufficient authority under the law. We do not need legislation. They can do it today. You do not have to go back to Congress,” he said.
Also on Monday, the Department of Health released new implementing guidelines on health technology assessment (HTA), which serves as a transparent priority setting mechanism in developing policies and programs for the purchase and coverage of health technologies funded by the DOH and PhilHealth.
The documents describe standards and methods governing the conduct of HTA as well as the methods of assessment used as basis by the HTA Council in providing recommendations to decision-makers.