Start fresh! Palace: Duterte’s threat to abolish Philhealth to eliminate corruption
MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to ask Congress to abolish Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) aims to eradicate corruption in the state-run insurer, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
“Wala pong magbabago, mga mukha lang, matatanggal lang po ang korapsyon kapag nabuwag at bumuo ng bagong organisasyon na gaganap din ng ginagawa po ng PhilHealth (Not much will change, only the personalities, corruption will only be eradicated if [PhilHealth] will be abolished and create a new organization that will continue the function of PhilHealth),” Roque said in a virtual presser.
In his televised public address on Monday night, Duterte said he would propose to Congress the abolition of the embattled PhilHealth as a “surgical move” to address corruption in the state firm.
“Itong (This) PhilHealth, I am going to propose to Congress to abolish the (PhilHealth),” Duterte said after meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infection Diseases (IATF-EID).
Duterte said he prefers to replace PhilHealth with a new agency rather than privatizing the state corporation.
“Create a new agency out of that — out of the ruins of that old one (PhilHealth),” he said.
The President said he is ready to appear in Congress to discuss with the lawmakers how to end corruption in government.
“But they should allow me to talk first then discuss how we can cut corruption. Simplify the Ease of Doing Business. I have some recommendation, almost radical,” Duterte said. “Kaya walang ibang remedy diyan (There is no other remedy there). It must be a surgical move.”
Duterte discussed his plan for PhilHealth in front of Health Secretary and PhilHealth chairman Francisco Duque III, a member of IATF-EID.
“Hindi na puwede, Secretary Duque. Hindi na puwede na itong mga tao na ito they are already entrenched na. Wala, walang mangyari (It is no longer possible, Secretary Duque. It is not possible since these people, they are already entrenched. Nothing will happen),” he said. “But I will try to begin tomorrow shaking the tree sa (at) PhilHealth.”
Roque said Duterte’s “shaking the tree” was figurative since the Chief Executive already gave new PhilHealth President and Chief Executive Officer Dante Gierran until December this year to “to fix up the mess in PhilHealth.”
“Kinakailangan talaga tanggalin ang mga bulok diyan sa PhilHealth at kung hindi talaga magawa iyan by December, well kinakailangan ng batas para buwagin po iyan at palitan ng bago (There is really a need to remove rotten [eggs] there in PhilHealth and if it will not be done by December, well, a new law is needed to revamp and replace it with new [agency],” Roque said. “Iyon lang po ang intensyon ng Presidente (That’s the only intention of the President).
Roque, however, said Duterte still believes that PhilHealth has many officials and employees who are not involved in corruption.
“Iyong mga matitino naman po, wala kayong dapat alalahanin dahil alam naman po ng Presidente kung sino talaga ang bulok at sino ang matino (Those who are not corrupt, you have nothing to worry because the President knows who are corrupt and who are honest),” he said.
He said government employees can only be removed through due process under the Civil Service law.
“Pero iyong problema po talaga sa PhilHealth, talagang masyado na pong systemic iyong problema, napakadami nilang dapat tanggalin, napaka-pervasive po ng influence nila, kaya iniisip ni Presidente baka mas mabuting i-abolish and start from scratch (But the problem in PhilHealth is very systemic, many of them should be removed, their influence is very pervasive and that’s why the President thinks it is better to abolish and start from scratch),” Roque said.
Duterte earlier approved the recommendation of the inter-agency task force led by the Department of Justice to file charges against at least six former and current officials of the PhilHealth) for their involvement in the alleged anomalies in the government insurer.
Last month, Duterte created the task force to look into the supposed overpriced purchase of information and community technology (ITC) equipment of PhilHealth.
Roque, during the Palace briefing, said more officials are expected to face charges as the task force continues to look into the deep-rooted corruption in PhilHealth.
“Asahan na po natin ang sibakan, malawakang sibakan diyan sa PhilHealth (Expect dismissal, widespread dismissal in PhilHealth),” he said.
Resign offer is out of frustration
Roque said he has no details about Duterte’s offer to resign due to endless corruption in government.
“Wala po akong detalye ‘no kasi narinig ko na po iyan. Hindi naman po kauna-unahang sinabi rin ni Presidente iyan. Pero sa tagal ng kaniyang panunungkulan bilang alkalde pa at vice mayor at ngayon ay Presidente, ang talagang frustration po niya kumbaga ay talagang hindi nawawala itong korapsiyon (I have no details because I heard it already before. It was not the first time Duterte said that. But he served as mayor and vice mayor for a very long time and now President, it was really his frustration that corruption does not end),” Roque said.
He said Duterte’s zero tolerance against corruption has prompted him to talk about quitting the presidency he won in 2016.
“Now, hindi po natuloy ang resignation ni Presidente, tingin ko hindi po siya magri-resign ngayon dahil dalawang taon na lamang natitira sa kaniyang termino. Pero igugugol po niya iyong natitirang panahon niya para talagang linisin ang mga iba’t ibang ahensiya ng ating gobyerno (Now, the resignation of the President did not push through. I think he will not resign now because he has only two years left in his term. But he will spend his remaining time in office to really eradicate corruption in different government agencies),” Roque said. (PNA)