MANILA - The regional office of PhilHealth in Dagupan City, Pangasinan is housed in a building owned by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, a clear case of “conflict of interest,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Wednesday.
Lacson made the revelation as government girded for the implementation of the Universal Health Care law, which President Rodrigo Duterte signed in February. The measure seeks to provide health coverage to all Filipinos.
“If this is not conflict of interest I don’t know what is. Building mo, naka-contract of lease ka (It's your building, you're in the contract of lease), and that is a family corporation. Educational and Medical Dev't Corp. Tapos (And) you are a member of the board," he told reporters.
"Narito ang (Here's the) general information sheet. And the signatory in the contract of lease is his own sister. I have the documents already."
Lacson said he did his own research after Duque said he was only digging up an already dismissed case.
The senator on Twitter brought up Duque's history as Health Secretary in 2004, under the administration of then President and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
To press his point, Lacson recalled the controversial distribution of the greater medical access card that Arroyo gave indigents that same year.
Funds used for the said PhilHealth cards had been diverted from the OWWA Medicare Fund, he said.
“But that is not enough. Ang ginawa nila (What they did was), ex-PGMA contacted PCSO (Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office) and directed them to release P6 billion to PhilHealth pang-logistics, pang-distribute ng mga (for logistics, to distribute) PhilHealth cards in those areas. P6 billion. In the meantime, that PCSO had not remitted the amount, PhilHealth advanced the P6 billion,” the senator said.
Lacson said he would file a Senate resolution to check on the status of the P6 billion fund, considering that the PCSO did not remit the said amount to PhilHealth, which Duque incidentally headed.
By Lacson's estimate, these controversies involve P254 billion in “squandered funds."
Lacson said there is a need to investigate the agency as the implementation of the Universal Health Care law this year nears.
“Pagkakatiwalaan pa ba natin ang PhilHealth?... If these controversies or anomalies are not exposed, tuloy-tuloy ang ligaya ng PhilHealth," he said.
(Will we still trust PhilHealth? If controversies or anomalies are not exposed, these will continue.)
"It is PhilHealth that is crafting the IRRs (implementing rules and regulations). So we must all be on guard in our own little way kung papaano bantayan ang hospital or PhilHealth officials involved sa anomalies (how to be vigilant on hospitals or PhilHealth officials involved in anomalies)."
Lacson said his resolution would be addressed to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon.
Recently, former employees of a dialysis center in Quezon City bared an alleged scheme were PhilHealth claims were made for patients who were already dead.
-- Report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News