A congressman who played a significant role in the House of Representatives’ investigation on the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) corruption mess believes that the proposal to abolish the state-run firm would need to be studied thoroughly.
Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers stressed this on Tuesday, after President Duterte floated in a recorded speech Monday night his plan of asking Congress to scrap PhilHealth altogether.
“We should study the proposal further,” said Barbers, a vice chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts. It was the Public Accounts panel that led last month the series of hearings on the alleged corrupt activities that have long been taking place at the government health insurer.
The Mindanaoan bared that the committee is actually nearing the completion of its report from its inquiry, which detailed the “mafia-like” abuse of public funds at PhilHealth. The persisting public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has further magnified the controversy.
“Malapit na matapos, this week siguro (It’s going to be finished soon, maybe this week),” Barbers said.
“There are other recommendations in the committee report like the filing of appropriate criminal and administrative charges against officials, reforms in the implementation of the disbursement of funds, etc.,” he added.
However, Barbers said the contents of the panel report would “definitely be affected if the President will push for the abolition of PhilHealth.”
Meanwhile, another Public Accounts panel vice-chairman, Kabayan Party-List Rep. Ron Salo, said Tuesday that he fully supports President Duterte’s aim “to address issues of corruption and to strengthen accountability of the officials and employees” in PhilHealth.
“Thus, I filed House Bill No. 7612, which seeks to reorganize Philhealth, to institute a performance-based retention system among its officials from managerial positions up, and to transfer PhilHealth as an agency from the Department of Health to the Department of Finance making the Secretary of Finance as an ex officio-Chair,” he said.
“The proposed measure was painstakingly crafted to provide permanent, not just band-aid, solutions to the woes that have continually hounded PhilHealth – from incompetency, lack of qualifications, and corruption. We need to entrust the management of PhilHealth funds which runs to more than hundred billion pesos and which increases yearly to officials who are not only competent but trustworthy,” said Salo.