DOF secretary should be Philhealth chairman –Sotto

Published September 16, 2020, 10:07 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senate President Vicente Sotto III wants the secretary of the Department of Finance (DOF) to replace the Secretary of Health as chairman of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) Board of Directors.

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

Following their investigation on the corruption scandal in the PhilHealth, Sotto filed Senate Bill No. 1829, which seeks to amend the Universal Health Care Act (Republic Act 11223) and remove the Department of Health (DOH) chief at the helm of its board.

He later said President Duterte agrees with his suggestion. 

“I just talked to PRRD (President Duterte), he agrees!” Sotto said on Twitter Wednesday night.

In filing the bill last September 14, Monday, Sotto said it is just “proper and appropriate” that the Board be chaired by the DOF secretary “and not the Secretary of Health” since the government-run corporation is mandated to manage the country’s health insurance funds.

“Based on the recently concluded Committee of the Whole hearing of PhilHealth’s alleged anomalies, the irregular and illegal disbursements of the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism greatly affected the actuarial life of PhilHealth and caused panic and alarm from the public,” the Senate leader explained further in his proposal.

“Also, the avoidance and departure of the present Secretary of Health to
fulfill his mandate as the Chairman of PhilHealth’s board, by placing a
representative in his stead, clearly defeated the intent of the law mandating the
Secretary of Health to be the Chairman of PhilHealth,” he added, taking a swipe at DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III who has repeatedly washed his hands off the controversies in the PhilHealth.

“Thus, the Secretary of Finance would be the most capable and effective to
be the chairman of the PhilHealth’s Board,” he said.

Under the bill, the DOF secretary shall serve as the ex-officio chairperson of the Board and “must be present and act as the chairman in all board actions and cannot be represented by an alternate or representative.”

Meanwhile, the DOH secretary would remain a member of the PhilHealth board “to provide necessary linkage to align DOH and the PhilHealth”, Sotto said.

Sotto led the Senate’s investigation on the reports of rampant corruption and irregularities in the transactions and disbursements of the PhilHealth.

The Senate later upheld the recommendation to file malversation and graft charges against Duque and other PhilHealth officials, specifically for the “illegal” payments of the state insurer to health care facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The high-level task force of the executive department, however, spared Duque from any liabilities despite his “actions or inaction” about the PhilHealth’s funds.