Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go (File photo)
MANILA – Senator Christopher “Bong” Go on Tuesday likened the issue of systemic corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to an illness that needed “curative and preventive measures” to thoroughly rid the agency of the affliction.
“Ang corruption at walang pakundangang pagnanakaw mula sa kaban ng bayan ay talaga namang sakit ng lipunan. Kagaya ng lahat ng sakit, dalawa ang dapat nating gawin (Corruption and the blatant looting of the public coffers is truly an illness of society. Like all illnesses, we need to do two things)– curative and preventive measures,” Go said during a Senate inquiry.
He noted that among the curative measures already being implemented is the creation of a task force by President Rodrigo Duterte to investigate the agency over the various allegations of corruption and anomalies.
Headed by the Department of Justice (DOJ), the task force will be composed of other agencies and instrumentalities of the government like the National Bureau of Investigation and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), with the support from the Office of the Ombudsman, Commission on Audit and other independent constitutional bodies.
“Public office is a public trust. Walang puwang sa administrasyon na ito ang mga corrupt at mga magnanakaw (This administration has no space for the corrupt and thieves). We expect this Task Force to initiate thorough investigation, conduct audit and lifestyle checks, recommend suspensions, prosecute and file cases, even dismissal, and ensure that those accountable to be put in jail,” Go said.
To prevent the illness from recurring, the chair of the Senate Committee on Health said a “vaccine” should be introduced.
“In other words, kailangan ng preventive measures para hindi na ito mangyari pang muli. Isa na nga po dito ang (preventive measures are needed to prevent it from happening again. One of this is the) transition to e-governance to minimize red tape and eliminate corruption,” he said.
Go, who recently filed a measure seeking to institutionalize the transition of the national government to e-governance amid the need for more transparency in government services, commended PhilHealth’s efforts to initiate IT reforms to deal with the systemic fraud that is causing the agency to lose billions of pesos a year.
However, Go said the agency’s transition to e-governance itself should be “free from corruption.”
He pointed out that if PhilHealth’s IT initiatives proved successful, it would become a “best practice” that would be replicated by other government agencies in their respective transition to e-governance.
“Pero kung sablay naman ‘yan at nababalot ng corruption, imbes na maging best practice kayo, magiging test case lang kayo ng Task Force laban sa (But if the initiative is a failure and is tinged with corruption, instead of being cited for best practice, you will just be a test case of the task force against) systematic corruption,” Go said.
The lawmaker stressed anew the need to properly manage the funds of PhilHealth especially in this time of pandemic.
He said the alleged PHP15 billion that the agency lost to corruption would have been enough to provide amelioration assistance to 1.9 million families; to purchase 7.5 million personal protective equipment (PPE); or 16,000 ventilators.
The amount could also have been used as additional funds to buy coronavirus vaccine or as additional allowance to heath workers, he said.
“Kaya po siguraduhin natin na mananagot po ang dapat managot. Malaki ang responsibilidad na nakasalaay sa PhilHealth lalo na sa panahon ngayon. Kung gusto nating maayos ang heath care, kailangan nating maayos ang PhilHealth (That’s why we have to ensure that those liable would be made accountable. PhilHealth has a great responsibility during these times. If we want to improve health care, we must fix PhilHealth),” Go said. (PNA)