Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Michael Defensor. (File photo)
MANILA – Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Michael Defensor said Friday the granting of emergency powers is necessary for President Rodrigo Duterte to have a “free hand” in reorganizing the embattled Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).
Defensor, who chairs the House of Representatives’ Committee on Public Accounts, made the statement after some senators opposed his proposal to give the Chief Executive additional powers to fix the alleged anomalies hounding the state-run agency.
“For this purpose, the President may abolish or create offices; split, group, or merge positions, transfer functions, records, and personnel in pursuit of an in-depth investigation and in making the PhilHealth more responsive and efficient,” he said. “The hiring of personnel and/or companies for audit, actuarial, legal, and financial purposes can also be undertaken without going through the cumbersome processes of government, which may take a year before it can be effected.”
Defensor questioned why the Senate has expressed urgency for an “intensive and extensive review and inspection of the corporation’s financial life” in its committee report but denies the need for emergency powers for these to be accomplished.
“Some members of the Senate are a bit confused as to where they stand as regards PhilHealth. In their committee report recently issued, they spoke about the violations in the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM), the IT bidding process, the irregularities of PhilHealth Legal sector, and the financial statements based on COA (Commission on Audit) observations,” he said.
“The Senate has vigorously investigated PhilHealth (on) several occasions and (is) aware of the deep-seated problems that need to be addressed,” Defensor added.
Congressional oversight function under the Universal Healthcare Law, he said, could be restated to ensure transparency in the actions to be undertaken by the executive branch.
Defensor noted that a review could be done weekly to ensure effectiveness in the reforms and actions undertaken by the executive.
“Emergency powers are limited in time and not in perpetuity. We have not yet formally introduced legislation to be approved by the House and yet they lambast the idea as if they already have a copy of the bill,” he said. “We are here to provide a health care system that our people deserve. The work we are doing is not only for us but for the future of our children.”
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the President could reform and reorganize PhilHealth without emergency powers from Congress.
Drilon cited that Congress, through the Government-Owned and -Controlled Corp. (GOCC) Governance Act, delegated to the President the power to reorganize PhilHealth.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, said, “More than ’emergency powers’ to reorganize PhilHealth, what the President needs is real, honest-to-goodness, strong political will first.”
Malacañang on Thursday said the President has the powers he needs to address the country’s problems, including the alleged massive corruption in PhilHealth.
“We know that beyond theory that the President has the powers that he needs to address the problems of the nation. Pero nagpapasalamat po kami sa suportang pinapakita siyempre ng mga supporters at kaalyado ng Presidente (But we are thankful for the support being shown by his supporters and allies),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual Palace briefing. (PNA)