Involve more experts in battle vs. Covid-19, Go tells IATF

Involve more experts in battle vs. Covid-19, Go tells IATF

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go (File photo)

MANILA – Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Tuesday urged the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to consult more subject-matter experts from various fields and involve groups that are willing to share their expertise.

He said a whole-of-nation approach is needed to overcome the prevailing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) health crisis.

“Bukas po tayo sa mga suggestions mula sa mga doktor, ekonomista, at iba pa dahil marami naman pong gustong tumulong. Pakinggan po natin ang mga hinaing ng iba’t ibang grupo tulad nitong mga nasa medical community (We are open to suggestions from doctors, economists and others who want to help. Listen to the voice of different groups like in the medical community),” he said.

As an elected representative of the people, Go said he will continue to engage with various sectors and assure them that their voices will be heard by the government.

Regarding the suggestions of some groups to reimpose most stringent enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), Go said officials must balance various national interests and consider the capability of the government to provide assistance to the poorest of the poor and other vulnerable sectors.

“Wala naman pong may gusto na bumalik tayo ulit sa ECQ pero kung hindi po tayo magtutulungan, mapipilitan po na higpitan muli ang mga patakaran para mapigilan ang lalong pagkalat ng sakit. Ikonsidera rin natin kung kaya pa ng ating pondo at kung may maibibigay pa ba tayong ayuda kung sakaling kailanganin nating patigilin muli sa trabaho ang mga tao at magsara nanaman ang mga Negosyo (Nobody wants to go back to ECQ but if you will not cooperate, we will be forced to reimpose most strict quarantine to stop the spread of the virus. We will consider the availability of funds for cash aid if we there will be work stoppage),” Go said.

On Sunday, President Rodrigo Duterte approved the recommendations to revert Metro Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Laguna, and Rizal to more stringent modified ECQ in response to medical community’s call for “breather” and to intensify government response against the coronavirus. (PR) Sen Angara: Plug PhilHealth loopholes and leakages immediately

MANILA — Senator Sonny Angara said that immediate actions should be taken to plug the loopholes at Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to stop the bleeding of the state health insurer.

During the Senate’s inquiry into the alleged widespread corruption within PhilHealth, a former anti-fraud officer of the corporation claimed that over P15 billion has been wasted or stolen over the years due to rampant questionable transactions facilitated by a syndicate.

Angara said the claims of such a huge amount being lost due to alleged leakages or corruption in PhilHealth are alarming considering that the corporation is already drawing on its reserves and is expected to record a net operating loss of P90 billion this year and P147 billion in 2021 as benefit payouts continue to increase because of the pandemic.

“With the actuary saying reserves will run out in 2021, drastic action is needed against any mafia and corrupt practices at PhilHealth. Congress has appropriated approximately P400 billion for PhilHealth in less than a decade (not including premiums). We need stronger safeguards and better systems,” Angara said.

“PhilHealth has shown weak institutional checks and balances as it has been plagued over the years by fraud, scandals and scams such as those involving cataract and dialysis claims and now this,” he added.

In order for genuine reforms to take place within the institution, Angara said PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales “needs to be more activist against corruption.

He noted how Morales responded to the claims made by the whistleblowers by demonizing them instead of verifying the information.

“Many whistleblowers are far from being perfect and blow the whistle for highly partisan or political reasons. He (Morales) may be right that they may have suspect motives but the issues they raise may also be valid and he should make the most of the information given,” Angara said.

“He asks for support for greater spending on IT yet matamlay siya dito sa issue ng overpricing. He has to be more outraged,” he added.

In his manifestation during the hearing, Angara presented several recommendations to plug the leaks and prevent the collapse of PhilHealth.

Top of the list is the conduct of a special audit of the funds of PhilHealth with particular focus on the payments that were “facilitated or in a brisk manner.”

“This is called for or has support under the Universal Healthcare Law. It also has support under the GCG (GOCC Governance Act of 2011) law where the head of the GCG can call for a special audit of any government corporation. I think it’s about time we look in depth not just at the macro, but the micro situation,” Angara said.

While there are questions of overpricing in PhilHealth’s information technology (IT) projects, Angara said there is a need for the firm to invest in a strong IT system in order to crack down on fraud and improve overall efficiency.

“We need to invest in IT but it should not be an investment in a black hole na hindi natin nakikita saan napupunta yung pera. Kailangan may hangganan, may finish line. Ano yung roadmap? What are we aiming for? It must be finite, it must be definite,” Angara said.

Angara strongly suggested the appointment of independent board members of PhilHealth “to really safeguard the funds.”

In order to shed light on the various reports of losses and leakages due to inefficiencies, loopholes or corruption, Angara called for the presence of representatives from the Commission on Audit, the GCG and the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement Service (PHILGEPS) in the next hearing of the Senate.

Angara also aired his support to the call for the Ombudsman to investigate some of the highly-placed officers of PhilHealth, especially those who have been in office for some time already.

“They can conduct a confidential investigation and if necessary, preventively suspend some of the wrongdoers there in PhilHealth,” he said.

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