MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte asked the officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to resign—or be terminated after a staggering multibillion-peso scam involving dead kidney patients surfaced into public scrutiny.
These were the two options the president offered. The former Special Assistant to the President, senator-elect Christopher Go said that the president was to meet last night with the PhilHealth board which includes the ex-officio members at the Malacañang for the full report of the agency at controversy.
Go said that Duterte would ask for the resignation of PhilHealth officials, including regional vice presidents who reportedly have been involved in this huge fraudulent practice.
“The President told me he was very dismayed by what happened. The President won’t allow this, so there must be accountability and the issue of command responsibility. The President really wants a revamp,” he said.
The soon-to be-senator clarified however, that Duterte still believes in the integrity of PhilHealth, with the acting president Roy Ferrer in spite that under Ferrer’s watch—the scam happened.
Go also said that many PhilHealth officials, who are career executives, might be placed on a ‘floating’ or pending status as Malacañang will begin finding replacements for the soon-to-be-vacated roles. The reported intrigues and “friction” among regional vice presidents in the Visayas and Mindanao satellite of the agency led to gaps in the delivery of services which resulted to corruption.
Also expected to attend the meeting were Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and Department of Budget and Management officer-in-charge Janet Abuel—being among the ex-officio members of PhilHealth.
PRRD looks for a strict management
Duterte, as reported by Go, is in pursuit to a revamp of the agency with a “strict manager” and one “who knows how to handle funds” to head PhilHealth.
“What the President is looking for is not only limited to a doctor, maybe a banker, who can really handle funds, especially now that we’re talking about hundreds of billions of pesos for beneficiaries,” he explained.
He also stressed out that Duterte also reportedly in search for a retired female military or police doctor to be part of the board or even to become PhilHealth’s head to provide “balance” in the predominantly male agency.
Outgoing Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, principal author of the Universal Health Care (UHC) law, suggested the appointment of a financial expert, particularly with ‘actuarial experience,’ meaning a person who can make accurate projections on the agency’s fund life, according to the reports of Philippine Star.
Ejercito said that there had been a P10-billion fund diversion at PhilHealth back in the previous administration which caused damage that is still felt—or perhaps, remain unsolved for now.
“What the PhilHealth needs is sound financial management, especially now that we’re about to implement the UHC law,” he added. Ejercito has been pushing for the appointment of an actuarial expert in the last two years.
At a press briefing yesterday, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said that Duterte wants PhilHealth officials to come up with a report on the controversy that involved dialysis payment claims for dead patients.
“Perhaps they will report to him... He instructed them to make a comprehensive report on what is happening in PhilHealth,” Panelo said at a press briefing.
Malacañang is also opposed to former lawmaker Harry Roque’s call to suspend the Universal Health Care law until the government addresses the issues on payment claims.
“If the problem is irregularities, then you solve the irregularities; you don’t stop the operation. You don’t burn a house just because there are so many rats there,” Panelo said.