More than emergency powers, strong political will is needed to reorganize the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. or PhilHealth, Senator Panfilo Lacson said on Friday.
Lacson said President Duterte does not need emergency powers to cleanse PhilHealth as all he needs to do to reorganize the health state insurance agency is real, honest-to-goodness, strong political will first.
Since PhilHealth is a creation of a law passed by Congress, the senator said the President has no actual statutory power to reorganize the agency.
“So he actually needs an act of Congress to delegate him such power or authority,” Lacson said.
But if the President’s intention is to cleanse PhilHealth of scalawags and misfits, he said Duterte may not need that delegated authority anymore as he has the Philippine National Police (PNP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Department of Justice (DOJ) and other instrumentalities of government at his disposal.
“That said, there is no time to lose to exercise such political will: No matter how good our country’s economic managers are, if our health department is below the level of incompetence in the middle of this pandemic, we will all sink before we can even start to swim,” Lacson said.
According to the senator, Duterte can start cleansing PhilHealth by removing its ex-officio chairman Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
“For a start, he can fire its ex-officio chairman and replace him with someone even with little above-average leadership traits, competence, honesty and integrity – and who won’t wash his hands but takes full responsibility for what PhilHealth does or fails to do,” he reiterated.
House Committee on Public Accounts chair Mike Defensor had earlier proposed granting President Duterte emergency powers to address the issues hounding PhilHealth after the Senate moved to investigate the alleged abuses in the utilization of the agencies’ Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) funds and its alleged overpriced Information Technology (IT) system project.
Defensor said granting Duterte emergency powers will help reorganize PhilHealth amid accusations of corruption involving its top-level officials.
The House lawmaker said this was already done in the past as there is already a precedent granting the President emergency powers to resolve a crisis.