Sotto, Lacson want fresh probe into alleged PhilHealth corruption
Robie de Guzman • July 24, 2020 • 686
MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Friday said a fresh investigation should be conducted into the alleged corruption at the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) following the resignation of one of its officers.
“There must be a full blown Senate investigation. Allegations and denials abound therefore diligence is necessary,” Sotto said in a statement.
“Where there is smoke, there is fire!” he added.
Lawyer Thorrsson Montes Keith resigned from his post in PhilHealth citing “widespread corruption” in the agency as one of his reasons for quitting. He also said in his resignation letter that the mandatory payment of PhilHealth contribution by overseas Filipinos workers was “unconstitutional” and against his personal values to let OFWs “pay for the spillages” of the agency.
He also claimed that there is rampant and patent unfairness in the agency’s promotion process, and that his salary and hazard pay has not been on time since he started investigating Philhealth officers as its “anti-fraud legal officer.”
According to Senator Panfilo Lacson, he is now drafting a resolution seeking for an inquiry into the issue.
“I am now drafting a resolution calling for a Senate Committee of the Whole inquiry. As expressed by SP Sotto to me last night, this inquiry will be one of the Senate’s top agenda after our session resumes on Monday,” Lacson said in a separate statement.
Reports quoting sources said that corruption claims were the topic of an online meeting that led to a shouting match between Philhealth officials on Thursday evening.
“That such corruption occurred amid the COVID-19 crisis makes it more disgusting and abominable,” Lacson said.
“Nakakasuya na sobra. Needless to say, there is urgency that the Senate has to act on the matter immediately, as part of its oversight mandate, having passed the Universal Health Law,” he added.
Last year, the Senate launched a probe into alleged conflict of interest between PhilHealth and the Department of Health. The investigation also covered DOH contracts that went to pharmaceutical firms owned by relatives of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales earlier denied claims of widespread corruption in the agency and called on Keith to substantiate his allegations. He also said that Keith only raised the issue after his application for another post at the agency was turned down.
Morales also denied the alleged resignation of two other PhilHealth officers due to corruption allegations. He said his head executive assistant resigned to pursue his doctoral studies while a corporate counsel denied any news of quitting his post. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)
MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III has chided the critics of Republic Act No. 11229 or the Child Safety Motor Vehicles Act, saying its provisions were heavily “misinterpreted” and that detractors should read it first before vilifying the law.
In a privilege speech on Monday, Sotto defended the law mandating the use of child restraint systems or car seats for young children, adding that misinterpretation of its provisions should not be a reason for the postponement of its full enforcement.
Sotto said he would support the deferment of its implementation considering the current COVID-19 pandemic when people do not have extra funds to purchase car seats.
“However, if the reason for the postponement is not due to the pandemic but that the law is being misinterpreted, that I cannot support,” he said.
The Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in February 2019. The law mandates that children below 12 years old with a height of less than 150 centimeters or 59 inches to use child restraint systems or car seats and are only allowed to take the front seat if they meet the 4’11’ height requirement, on top of using the regular seat belt.
The law was set to be fully implemented on February 2 but transportation officials earlier said they will not yet apprehend or issue tickets to violators as they aim to conduct intensified information drive about the law within the next six months.
Sotto said the law clearly states the age, height and weight it covers, and children who do not fall under these requirement as provided by law could use the usual seat belts.
Under the law, violators will be fined P1,000 for the first offense, P2,000 for the second offense, and P5,000 and suspension of driver’s license for one year for the third and succeeding offenses.
“Are we just going to allow our country to remain as a third world country in terms of safety of children? Many have a very low understanding of the law that we passed. There are countries similarly situated or shall we call underdeveloped or the least developed countries such as El Salvador, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Mozambique, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, but their implementation of their car seat or child seat safety law is doing well or are doing well,” Sotto said.
He said private motorists in first world countries like the United States, Europe and Asia are required to rent a child seat when they rent a car. Nobody complained about the requirement, Sotto noted.
“Now, why is a car restraint system necessary? Mandating the use of age-appropriate child restraint system like car seats and booster seats, are one of the evidence-based road safety policies that will save lives of the minor passengers and will give them a better chance of surviving a car crash,” he stressed.
Sotto also hit social media users who contribute to the “misinterpretation” of the law, as well as skeptics concluding that China will benefit from the law’s implementation.
“Let’s stop the blame game. There are people saying that the Chinese will benefit from it. If that is the argument, then don’t buy an iPhone because it is assembled in China. Huawei, shoes like Adidas, as they are all manufactured in China,” he said.
“I wonder, in this issue, I wonder who the cerebrally challenged are? The implementers, or those opposing the law on social media?” he added.
While he agrees that the implementation of the law is ill-timed, he emphasized the importance of its enforcement to ensure child car safety.
“Our country is behind when it comes to the safety in transportation, especially the safety of the children. I can only pray that our children and grandchildren do not get hurt because of our misunderstanding of the law. Kaya please, basa muna bago kumontra,” he said.
The Senate committee on public services has set an inquiry into issues surrounding the measure on Tuesday while a similar hearing will also be held at the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
MANILA, Philippines—Senators Panfilo Lacson and Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan criticized Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Southern Luzon Command Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. for his comment against a journalist.
Parlade claimed that the journalist is aiding terrorist groups which drew ire from various groups, lawmakers, and netizens.
Lacson, in a statement, called Parlade’s remarks as ‘careless and insensitive.’
“Accusing a journalist of ‘aiding the terrorists by spreading lies,’ assuming that such comment was accurately attributed to him, surely does not help the government to convince the magistrates of the Supreme Court to rule in its favor,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pangilinan believes Parlade should be removed from office because of his unprofessionalism.
“Enough of this unprofessionalism and lack of discipline with such baseless, erroneous public statements. Like AFP Intel Chief Luna, Lorenzana should show Parlade the door,” Pangilinan said in a statement.
In a post on social media Parlade accused reporter Tetch Torres-Tupas of “aiding terrorists by spreading lies” after Tupas published an article on jailed Aetas. AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Friday sought simplified procedures for the entry of donated COVID-19 vaccines, especially those with emergency use authorization (EUA) from countries or territories with stringent regulatory agencies.
Lacson made the call during the third hearing of the Senate, convening as a Committee of the Whole, on the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.
“This is critical because there are many associations abroad that may donate vaccines to their sister cities in the Philippines. Would it not be more practical to ensure the goods reach the intended recipients directly under strict supervision and guidance by health authorities, instead of coursing the goods through the Department of Health and having the DOH distribute them?” he said.
“Besides, many local government units like Baguio City already have their own cold storage facilities for the vaccines, as their local leaders had the foresight to act accordingly. Allowing such donated vaccines to go directly to the LGUs instead of having to go through the logistical requirements of the DOH and Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 would also avoid the prospect of double handling and additional costs,” he added.
Lacson pointed out that the pandemic involves an emergency where authorities cannot afford to have vaccines go through the bureaucratic processes that could delay its distribution.
In response to Lacson’s recommendation, Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said they will make the necessary simplification of processes. They may also conduct a time and motion rehearsal in the logistical process.
“Tama kayo, Sir. Yan din ang gagawin namin. Kaya magkakaroon ng time and motion rehearsal para in case capable ang LGU, pwede idiretso para wala nang double handling,” Galvez told Lacson.
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