Drilon opposes Philhealth bid to delay implementation of Universal Health Care Law

Robie de Guzman   •   June 18, 2020   •   440

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has opposed the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (Philhealth) appeal to postpone the full implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law even amid the slump in collections this year due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Drilon said the UHC law is “critical” in the fight against COVID-19, and delaying its implementation is wrong.

“To halt the implementation of a law that would promote access to affordable care, strengthen our primary health care and make our people healthy to fight the virus is a step in the wrong direction,” he said.

“If COVID-19 taught us one thing, it is that we need to keep people healthy and we have to prepare for the next pandemic. UHC is the key,” he added.

While Drilon recognized the need to address Philihealth’s precarious position for it to be able to sustain its funding, he said it should not be at the expense of the people who are relying on the UHC for their health needs.

He added that the COVID-19 pandemic reveals the weaknesses and inequity in the current healthcare system, which the law seeks to address.

The Senate Minority Leader also expressed his concern that postponing the full implementation of the UHC could “discourage poor people from seeking hospital treatments or primary health care even if they experience COVID-19 symptoms.”

Drilon said the implementation of UHC is sourced from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, premium contribution of members, annual appropriation of DOH under the General Appropriations Act, and National Government subsidy to Philhealth.

Drilon said he has already called on the Department of Budget and Management to increase funding for the health sector in the National Expenditure Program for 2021.

“If we learned anything about the onset of the pandemic, it is that the health sector must get a big part of the budgetary pie,” he said.

The health of the people is the State’s responsibility,” he added.

‘Against PH laws’: Drilon backs NTF stand vs blanket immunity for vaccine makers

Robie de Guzman   •   February 26, 2021

Senator Franklin Drilon

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the government cannot grant absolute and blanket immunity to vaccine manufacturers, saying it is against the law and contrary to public policy.

Drilon issued the statement in support of National Task Force (NTF) COVID-19 and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., who earlier said that the government cannot agree to a full immunity for vaccine makers.

Galvez revealed late Wednesday that there are vaccine makers that demand full immunity but said the government cannot do so out of concern over malpractices and willful misconduct.

“Under the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act Congress passed last February 22, COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers are immune from suits for claims arising out of the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine, but not for willful misconduct or gross negligence,” Drilon said.

The senator cited Section 8 of the said measure which states that “notwithstanding any law to the contrary, public officials and employees, contractors, manufacturers, volunteers, and representatives of duly authorized private entities who are duly authorized to carry out and are actually carrying out the COVID-19 vaccination program shall be immune from suit and liability under Philippine laws with respect to all claims arising out, related to, or resulting from the administration or use of a COVID-19 vaccine under the COVID-19 vaccination program except arising from willful misconduct and gross negligence.”

“The government cannot extend a blanket immunity to vaccine manufacturers as it is against the law and contrary to public policy,” Drilon said.

The lawmaker, however, noted that any vaccine recipient can file claims for damages, based on the vaccine manufacturers’ liabilities arising from willful misconduct and gross negligence.

“It is part of their individual and private rights that cannot be set aside by the government,” he explained.

According to Drilon, gross negligence is defined by the Supreme Court as “negligence characterized by the want of even slight care, or by acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently but willfully and intentionally, with a conscious indifference to the consequences, insofar as other persons may be affected.”

Willful misconduct, on the other hand, exists where the acts “were impelled by an intention to violate the law, or were in persistent disregard of one’s rights, as evidenced by a flagrantly or shamefully wrong or improper conduct.”

Drilon also said the establishment of an indemnity fund to compensate inoculated individuals who would experience severe adverse effects is also provided in the measure.

“The government set up the an indemnity fund to compensate any person inoculated through the vaccination program. The indemnity fund will take care of the costs for deaths, permanent disabilities and hospital confinements caused by vaccination”, Drilon said.

The bill likewise earmarked P500 million of the President’s P13 billion contingent fund for the COVID-19 National Vaccine Indemnity Fund. It will be administered by PhilHealth.

Drilon said the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Law will not only expedite the purchase and administration of vaccines but also sets aside money to secure the interest of the people against unforeseen effects thereof.

The proposed vaccine bill is now up for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.

PhilHealth extends payment deadline for employers to Feb. 22

Marje Pelayo   •   February 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) has extended the remittance deadline for employers to February 22.

This is for contributions applicable for the month of January.

In a statement, the agency said the extension of the deadline is in view of the technical issues in the Electronic Premium Remittance System (EPRS).

The technical glitch since February 11 has prevented employers from generating their statement of premium accounts or billing statements. 

The agency said the extension applies to all employers in the private and government sectors nationwide.

For assistance, employers may contact the local PhilHealth office.

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Comelec urged to expand satellite voter’s registration, buy more biometric scanners

Robie de Guzman   •   February 8, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Monday called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to expand its satellite voters’ registration program and purchase more biometric scanners in order to facilitate a speedy voter’s registration.

In a statement, Drilon stressed that Congress has allotted sufficient funds to the Comelec under the 2020 and 2021 national budgets and that the poll body should use it to “buy more biometric gadgets, hire more consultants or job order employees and even rent out a bigger space or venue of voter registration.”

“Huwag na po nating tipirin ang budget. Kung kailangan dalhin sa bawat barangay ang voters’ registration, the Comelec must do it,” he said.

The senator said the lack of sufficient biometric scanner further slows down the registration process.

“Even if people go to the Comelec office to register, the Comelec has no capacity to accommodate a large number of applicants per day for a number of reasons, which include insufficient manpower and inadequate number of biometric scanners,” he said.

He also noted the lack of bigger Comelec offices in all districts to accommodate a large number of applicants.

Drilon believes that installing satellite voter registration sites is a solution within the law that the poll body should maximize and use efficiently to increase voters for the 2022 national and local elections.

The senator pointed out that due to COVID-19 health protocols, Comelec offices in the country have to limit the number of registrants they could accommodate in a day.

Citing Comelec data, Drilon said there are still three million new voters to be registered and seven million who need to renew their registration because they have not voted in the last two elections.

“There is no way the Comelec can reach its target number of voters for next year’s election at that rate of 50 to 70 registrants per day. We are running out of time. COMELEC should intensify its efforts to install more registration sites,” he said.

Drilon said the poll body can organize satellite registration in open courts, churches, schools with safety protocols followed to cover more applicants.

He also urged the commission to consider putting more than one satellite registration sites for cities with voting big populations.

“They can coordinate with the homeowner’s association to open their clubhouse or basketball courts for the registration. They can coordinate with the churches to open their doors. The National Secretariat of Social Action had offered to facilitate opening up of the Churches,” he added.

Comelec should hire more people to manage the satellite registration all over the country, he added.

“Let’s hire those IT people who lost their jobs. They know how to operate biometric machines. It can generate income for them for at least three to four months. They can be accompanied by a Comelec civil servant who can supervise the operation,” Drilon said.

Comelec earlier said it has extended the registration hours for new voters, opening its offices even on Saturdays to encourage more registrants.

The poll body said it is also eyeing the implementation of barangay satellite registration to accommodate more applications but added that it would depend on the contamination rate in the area.

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