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Rody’s ‘emergency power’ on PhilHealth hangs

MJ Blancaflor

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Malacañang and the incoming chief of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) are open to the proposal of granting emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte to reform the agency.

This was the Palace’s response on Thursday to the suggestion made by Anakalusugan Partylist Rep. Mike Defensor.

It was tackled during the hearing of the House committee on public accounts. He argued that emergency powers would help the President clean the ranks of PhilHealth.

“We welcome the willingness of the House of Representatives to give such emergency powers to the President,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing.

Asked if the grant of emergency powers for such purpose is Constitutional, Roque refused to comment on the matter without seeing the proposal of the House panel.

Under the 1987 Charter, the Congress can grant emergency powers to the President “in times of war or other national emergency.”

Meanwhile, incoming PhilHealth president and CEO Dante Gierran also tagged the proposal as a “good” suggestion as he underscored the importance of public health in the country.

“Good. Very good. Because you know, what are the basics of governance, the basics of leadership, the basics of helping Filipinos, but service on health?” Gierran said.

“If the public health is compromised, who will work if all of us are affected?” he added.

Earlier this week, Duterte confirmed the appointment of Gierran as the new PhilHealth chief following Morales’ resignation who was advised to step down from his post due to his medical condition.

Gierran buckled down to work early after he was given the green light to probe the controversies which sullied the health insurer. He has asked the Senate for a copy of the Committee of the Whole’s report on its PhilHealth investigation which could guide him in his own probe.

“I am glad that former NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) Director Gierran got in touch and asked for a copy of the report. He said it is a good guide,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said.

The new PhilHealth chief should also expect communications from Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who is leading the Task Force created by Malacañang to look into the allegations against several PhilHealth officials.

“I’m letting him warm up in his new post before I talk to him,” Guevarra said.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), a private organization, defended itself over the allegations of anomalous deals with the state insurance agency.

PRC Governor Atty. Inky Reyes on Wednesday invalidated former PhilHealth anti-fraud officer Atty. Thorrsson Montes Keith’s claims that the contract between the PRC and PhilHealth was illegal and could cause gross undue injury to the government that can be viewed as a crime.

“How can that be illegal when we were authorized by law, both under our charter and the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which the senators and the congressmen passed, and the Universal Health Care Act to provide these services,” Reyes said.

“He (Keith) said the P100 million of IRM (Interim Reimbursement Mechanism) is illegal. Nowhere in our MoA (memorandum of agreement) with PhilHealth that you will see any reference to the IRM,” he stressed.

It was PhilHealth which asked for Red Cross’s services.

PhilHealth shoulders the test of persons referred by the government and covered by the state insurer, like the repatriated overseas Filipino workers and health workers.

The insurance agency does not pay for the tests of private individuals, corporations and local government units.

“As early as March, Chairman (Senator Richard) Gordon and the Red Cross were scrambling to get a PCR machine and the RNA extraction machines from China. In fact, Chairman Gordon talked to the Chinese ambassador, to the Department of Foreign Affairs, to secretary Locsin, in order to bring in the machine and the test kits. This was as early as March,” said Reyes.

“The Red Cross is probably the single biggest provider of testing services at the cheapest rate. To this date, we already provided 150,00 tests or 25 percent of the entire country’s capacity. So why is he saying that the government suffered a loss due to an illegal contract?” he added.

Reyes underscored that the PRC is a non-government organization. Thus, it doesn’t receive any budget from the government.

with ALVIN MURCIA,
HANANEEL BORDEY
and MICHELLE GUILLANG

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