DOJ to issue legal opinion on PhilHealth-Red Cross deal this week – Guevarra

Robie de Guzman   •   October 22, 2020   •   188

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) assured it will render this week a legal opinion on the memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed between the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) and state insurer Philippine Health Insurance Corp. for the conduct of COVID-19 tests.

“The DOJ is reviewing the MOA between the Philippine Red Cross and PhilHealth and will render an opinion within the week,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a message to reporters.

“We’re giving this our preferential attention,” he added.

Guevarra said the review is in response to the request of PhilHealth President and CEO Dante Gierran.

PhilHealth and PRC entered into a deal in May this year for the conduct of COVID-19 tests which will be charged to the state insurer.

The Red Cross, however, suspended the testing last week due to PhilHealth’s mounting debts.

President Rodrigo Duterte himself, in a televised speech Monday, assured to pay off the P930 million debt of PhilHealth to the PRC.

Meanwhile, PhilHealth spokesperson Rey Baleña reiterated that the agency has the funds to pay its obligations to the PRC.

The state insurer, however, wants to thresh out some issues on how to move forward with its partnership with Red Cross to ensure that members’ funds are properly handled and disbursed.

“Nais lamang nito na makatiyak na ang lahat ay nasa ayos bilang bahagi ng pangangalaga sa pondo ng mga miyembro,” Baleña said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Vincent Arboleda)

Philippine Red Cross lowers COVID-19 swab testing fees effective Dec. 1

Marje Pelayo   •   November 30, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) on Sunday (November 29) said it is lowering its fees for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) swab testing effective Tuesday (December 1).

From the current P4,000 per test, the PRC lowered the cost to P3,800 for private clients, walk-in clients and inbound passengers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

The said lowering of fees is in line with the agency’s effort to help more Filipinos get tested for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the PRC said P4,800 will be charged for expedited test with a turnaround time of 12-24 hours, while paying local government units (LGU) will be charged P3,300 per test.

Institutions that charge their tests to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will have to pay P3,409 per test.

“Natawaran natin ang China na makuha natin nang mas mura ang test kits (We were able to bargain with China to give us a more affordable price for the test kits),” said PRC Chairman Senator Richard Gordon. 

“Kung mapapababa pa natin ang bayad sa test kits, ibababa pa natin iyan para mas marami ang ma-test (If we can purchase the test kits at a cheaper price, we will lower the fees even more so many can get tested),” he added.

As of November 29, the PRC has tested over one million people in its molecular laboratories all over the country that could test 44,000 tests a day in total.

“The lowering of prices would give way to more Filipinos to afford Covid-19 testing and would help stop the spread of the virus,” said Gordon.

Guevarra clarifies task force probe on anomalous gov’t transactions

Aileen Cerrudo   •   November 24, 2020

Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra has clarified that the anti-corruption task force is aimed at probing anomalous activities in government offices and not on individuals.

This was after President Rodrigo Duterte announced he has a list of names of lawmakers allegedly involved in the corruption in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

“So, Mr. President, it’s not really the person who is being investigated but a particular transaction na maaari pong kasama o may involvement itong (which might be involved) any member of the government which is outside of the executive department,” he said.

He also clarified that the Task Force Against Corruption does not have the said list of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC).

However, Guevarra said the task force will conduct its own investigation once the Office of the Ombudsman has filed a case against individuals possibly involved in corruption.

Guevarra also said it will be up to the Ombudsman if they plan to disclose the names of lawmakers possibly involved in an anomaly.

Meanwhile, according to the PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica, they do not cover investigation on Congressmen but based on the investigation they are conducting on the DPWH, there are lawmakers linked to the alleged anomalies in the department.

“Just to clarify, we are not conducting any investigation against members of Congress because our jurisdiction only covers presidential appointees. But we will submit the report for proper investigation.  It was during the course of the investigation that some congressmen were implicated. Not all, but some,” he said in a statement. -AAC (with reports from Dante Amento)

Gov’t officials not obligated to submit SALN to anti-corruption task force —Sec. Guevarra

Aileen Cerrudo   •   November 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Government officials are not obligated to submit their Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) to the anti-corruption task force led by the Department of Justice (DOJ), according to Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

In a statement, Guevarra clarified that a SALN will only be required if a government official is included in the task force’s investigation.

The DOJ official made the statement after the Department of Transportation (DOTr) announced its officials and other staff will submit their SALNs to the DOJ.

“We are not requiring other agencies to submit the SALNs of their officials and employees to the TFAC […] the submission by the DOTr of the SALNs of its officials and employees to the task force is purely the DOTr’s initiative,” he said.

Based on the DOJ report, the DOTr is included in the list of government agencies that is allegedly involved in corruption.

Other agencies include the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Bureau of Customs (BOC), the Department of Health (DOH), and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

The Anti-Corruption Task Force is currently evaluating reports filed regarding corruption complaints in various government offices. — AAC (from the report of Dante Amento)

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