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

Robie de Guzman   •   June 18, 2020   •   257

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.

Senate eyeing to start probe on alleged PhilHealth corruption next week

Robie de Guzman   •   July 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate is looking to start next week its investigation into the alleged anomalies within the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Senator Panfilo Lacson earlier filed Senate Resolution No. 475 urging the upper chamber to convene as a Committee of the Whole to look into the alleged widespread corruption, incompetence, and inefficiency that may lead to the financial collapse of the state-run health insurance agency.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the chamber will constitute as a Committee of the Whole because the scope of the probe is “too wide.”

“Hindi lang tungkol sa health, hindi lang tungkol sa PhilHealth, hindi lang tungkol sa violations at investigations of public officials,” Sotto said in an online press conference.


Under Senate rules, all senators are given voting rights on issues during the legislative hearing once the chamber convenes as a Committee of the Whole.

Sotto said around four to five witnesses are expected to appear in the hearing to provide evidence on alleged irregularities in the agency.

The probe comes after PhilHealth officer, Atty. Thorrson Montes Keith resigned from his post due to supposed rampant corruption in the agency. He also cited the “unconstitutional” mandatory payment of Philhealth for overseas workers as among the reasons for his resignation.

Despite the allegations, Philhealth President and Chief Executive Officer General Ricardo Morales still continues to enjoy the trust and confidence of President Rodrigo Duterte according to Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Drilon on Duterte tirade: I was defending freedom of the press, not the Lopezes

Robie de Guzman   •   July 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon asserted that he was defending the freedom of the press and not the Lopezes after President Rodrigo Duterte accused him of defending the owners of the closed down media network ABS-CBN.

“I was defending freedom of the press, not the Lopezes. The closure of the ABS-CBN sent a chilling effect,” Drilon said in a statement issued shortly after Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa on July 27.

In the first five minutes of his SONA, Duterte lambasted Drilon over his “arrogant” statements on oligarchs and accused the senator of defending the Lopezes as he slammed “those who take advantage of a preoccupied government” amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“One of them is Senator Frank Drilon. In an interview, he arrogantly mentioned, among others, that oligarchs need not be rich. Then he linked the anti-dynasty system with oligarchy and the topic was my daughter and son,” he said.

“This happened after the Committee on Franchise voted 70-11 to deny the grant of a franchise to ABS-CBN. Obviously, he was defending the Lopezes that they are not oligarchs,” he added.

In a forum last July 15, Drilon called on the president to push for the passage of a law prohibiting political dynasties in order to dismantle oligarchy in the country. He also said in the same forum that being rich does not equate to being an oligarch.

Drilon made the remark after Duterte said in a speech during his visit to Jolo on July 14 that he had dismantled oligarchy in the country without declaring martial law.

“As I said before, for democracy to thrive we need free press and to allow journalists to exercise complete freedom to do their mandate of reporting facts without fear,” Drilon said.

The lawmaker said he was also defending the 11,000 ABS-CBN employees who would lose jobs amid the pandemic.

“In the face of a pandemic, we need more access to information,” he said.

“I aired my support for the renewal of franchise of ABS-CBN because undeniably the network complements other stations in providing timely and accurate reportage even in the farthest locality unreachable to others, even to the government,” he added.

In a separate interview with UNTV on Tuesday, Drilon also said he owed nothing to the Lopezes.

“‘Yung mga Lopezes po, wala po akong utang na loob sa kanila. Kung ako po ay tumayo para sa ABS-CBN, yan po ay dahilan sa aking paningin na ang kalayaan ng pamamahayag o freedom of the press, malaking bagay po at importante sa ating demokrasya,” he reiterated.

He also denied Duterte’s allegation about his involvement when his former law firm drafted water concession agreements that allegedly contained provisions that are onerous and disadvantageous to the government.

“Hindi ko nga nakita kung ano ‘yung itsura nung agreement na ‘yun. Wala po akong kinalaman diyan… Wala po ako diyan. Hindi ko po alam. Hindi ko nakikita ‘yang kontratang ‘yan hanggang ngayon,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Duterte wants probe on alleged PhilHealth anomaly

Marje Pelayo   •   July 24, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte wants an immediate investigation on the reported corruption inside the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed that the matter has come to the attention of the President, thus he ordered concerned authorities to investigate particularly the P2B-worth of “overpriced” IT purchases.

“Nag-i-imbestiga na po ang kinauukulan, pinakinggan po ang lahat at ang naging conclusion ay isang maigting na imbestigasyon ang gagawin, at least dito sa isyu ng IT purchase (All concerned are already investigating. Everyone involved has been heard and the conclusion was to conduct a thorough investigation, at least on the issue of IT purchases,” Roque said. 

Also, Roque encouraged Thorrsson Montes Keith who resigned from his position as the agency’s anti-fraud legal officer due to alleged irregularities in PhilHealth, to cooperate in the investigation. 

“Ang aking conclusion diyan talaga may sindikato talaga at ito po iyong pinakamatataas na career executives diyan sa PhilHealth (My conclusion to that is that there is a syndicate [in the agency] and they are the high-ranking career executives),” Roque said. 

PhilHealth president, retired General Ricardo Morales, for his part, denies allegations of corruption within the agency.

He even dared Keith to present his evidence to prove his claims. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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