Senator Christopher “Bong” Go has recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte the expansion of the investigation by Task Force-PhilHealth to include other national agencies and instrumentalities, including government-owned and controlled corporations, that are fraught with allegations of mismanagement and corruption.
Go said the government should conduct lifestyle checks and charge those guilty of corruption among the government agency personnel.
Last 14 September, the multi-agency task force, led by the Department of Justice, submitted its initial report to the Office of the President where it recommended that criminal and administrative charges be filed against some senior officials of PhilHealth.
“We have to dig deeper and put these people under preventive suspension so that they will not be able to influence any investigation,” he said.
When asked about accusations against Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Go reiterates that the President continues to have faith in him.
“That is the prerogative of the president. While the trust is there, we should respect that decision,” he pointed out.
Go clarified that the investigation will still continue in order to find more evidence against other individuals involved in corruption.
The Senator went on to disclose that they had also discussed the need to review existing laws to increase the penalties for crimes related to corruption and illegal drugs.
“We need harsher penalties to serve as effective deterrent to crimes. While we consistently avoid harsher penalties to uphold human rights, we also need to protect the rights of every Filipino to live a life that is free from fear of corruption, criminality and illegal drugs,” Go stressed in the interview.
“(We need to) work together towards the same goal of providing a comfortable life for all Filipinos, specifically… the need to review and strengthen the laws and punishment against crime, particularly those related to corruption and illegal drugs,” he added.
The Senate and House leaders in attendance expressed their agreement with the President’s recommendation to further exercise the oversight function of the legislative branch in order to better aid the Duterte Administration in its campaign against corruption.
Duterte, himself, is also very willing to participate in legislative hearings when necessary to help institutionalize reforms in government, according to Go.
When asked about death penalty, he admitted that it was not discussed during the meeting. However, he reiterated his support for its reimposition for criminals who commit heinous crimes involving plunder and dangerous drugs.
Go disclosed that the President is also open to the possibility of abolishing or privatizing PhilHealth if systemic corruption in the agency is not resolved.
Previously, Go, as chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, issued a challenge to PhilHealth chief Dante Gierran to immediately cleanse the ranks of the agency of corruption while ensuring it continues to provide the best services possible to the Filipino people.
He warned that should the new PhilHealth leadership fail in its efforts to crack down on corruption, he would support an organizational overhaul of the agency or even its abolition if necessary, as mentioned by the President.
Go, however, said that he remains primarily committed to pushing for the implementation of the major reforms to the health care system introduced under the Universal Health Care Act. The act, signed into law on February 2019, automatically enrolls all Filipinos into PhilHealth’s National Health Insurance Program.
The law guarantees them access to preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative care for medical, dental, mental and emergency health services while providing them protection from high out-of-pocket financial burdens.