Agencies that set aside Senate’s PhilHealth findings face intense budget scrutiny — Sotto

Published September 16, 2020, 1:40 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Agencies that have brushed aside the Senate’s findings on the alleged corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) would face grilling when senators take up their proposed 2021 budgets.

Sen. Vicente Sotto III (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

No less than Senate President Vicente Sotto III vowed on Wednesday to scrutinize the budget of the government agencies concerned in prosecuting officials that are involved and accountable for the reported irregularities in the state health insurance firm.

“Iiyak sila sa budget deliberations sa amin at sa budget hearings, ginagarantiyahan ko sila (They will cry from our budget deliberations and hearing, I guarantee that),” Sotto said in an interview with radio DZBB

He said the government cannot ignore the intensive committee hearings conducted by the Senate that uncovered anomalies and questionable disbursements of the country’s health insurance funds. Adopted by members of the Senate, Sotto said the report is an official public record.

“Hindi posibleng balewala ito, imposible sapagkat (This cannot be brushed aside, it’s impossible, because) these are official records. Ito ay committee report na pinasa ng Senado on the floor, sa plenary kaya ito ay official Senate report (This is a committee report passed by the Senate, so this is an official Senate report)…At maliwanag dito ay bilad na bilad sila dito, lalo na sa taong bayan (And this exposed them, especially to our countrymen),” the Senate chief pointed out.

“Pagkatapos mong gumawa ng kasalanan, sasabihin sa iyo, ‘Warningan lang kita para hindi ka na uulit nung kasalanan (After you committed offenses, you only be told ‘I will just warn you so this would not be repeated’),” he lamented.

Sotto referred to the Department of Justice (DOJ)-led “Task Force PhilHealth” which absolved Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and some other officials that the Senate wanted charged over the apparent irregularities at the PhilHealth.

The multi-agency task force recommended to President Duterte that Duque, who chairs the PhilHealth Board of Directors, only be “strongly admonish[ed] and remind[ed] of the grave consequences of (his) action and inaction” in the agency. The PhilHealth Board governs the management of the government-run corporation and its programs.

“Marami naman kaming mga paraan sa Senado (We have ways in Senate). Ang budget nila dadaan sa amin, aba ay paiyakan ito (Their budget will go through our scutiny, well, they should expect tears),” Sotto said.

Asked which agencies was referring to, he responded: “‘Yong mga ayaw sumunod doon sa mga rekomendasyon ng Senate report (Those who refuse to heed the recommendations of the Senate report).”

Sotto said that while they would still consider the agency’s need for funding especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they will not allow appropriations to be managed by the same officials involved in anomalies.

“Pagdating sa mga opisyales na ‘yan, aba, eh teka muna, lumagay kayo sa lugar kasi galit na galit ang taong bayan (When it come to those officials, wait, know your places first because the Filipino people are angry),” he said.

“Alam mo ang mga kababayan natin, nagkakanda-iyak. Pumipila sila para makasingil sa PhilHealth, merong mga iba pumipila sa mga hospital, pumipila sa mga ganyan, maulanan, maarawan, may pandemic o wala, pagkatapos maririnig, bilyon-bilyon? Nagbibigay kayo ng milyon-milyon sa mga dialysis centers na wala naman? Or na walang pasyente at nagbibigay kayo sa mga hospital na wala namang COVID[-19] patient?” he said.

“Pag walang nangyari sa report namin, binale-wala nila ‘yong Senate report, babale-walain din namin yung budget nila (If nothing happened with our report, and they just dismissed the Senate report, the we might as well dismiss their budget),” Sotto vowed.

Sotto insisted that Duque should be charged with malversation and graft charges for his ignorance over the anomalies in the PhilHealth. Duque has maintained that he had no involvement in the irregularities.