MANILA - Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Saturday decried Health Secretary Francisco Duque III for calling the coronavirus pandemic a "blessing in disguise," saying alleged anomalies in the health care system has affected how the country is faring in the face of the crisis.
In a statement, Lacson said there are people "definitely making a killing out of misery" because of the coronavirus, citing alleged anomalies in the health care system as the pandemic continues to ravage the Filipino population, such as alleged corruption at the Philippine Health Insurance Corp and supposed "overpricing" of personal protective equipment procured by government.
The Senate has just wrapped up its investigation into allegedly corruption at PhilHealth, with Lacson among senators closely involved in the probe. Duque is chair of the PhilHealth board.
"Some people are definitely making a killing out of the misery brought upon our people by the coronavirus, coming as it does in many forms we cannot even imagine," Lacson said.
He cited alleged "illegal advance payments to unauthorized health care institutions" under PhilHealth's interim reimbursement mechanism, which releases pre-payments to hospitals during times of calamities, and supposed "grossly overpriced procurement of PhilHealth’s ICT equipment."
"... [W]e continue to be confronted by issues we hate to hear, but which we now know anyway - the DOH’s 'double-the-price' purchases of PPE’s and face masks and probably even face shields."
“Yet, we hear the secretary of health saying that the pandemic is a 'blessing in disguise,' we know for sure we haven’t seen the worse for our suffering countrymen, health wise and their economic well-being,” said Lacson, who had earlier called on Duque to quit his post, citing his lapses in the COVID-19 response.
In an online forum with medical frontliners, Duque had said the pandemic can be considered a “blessing in disguise” saying it highlights the need to speed up the implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) law - a measure automatically enrolling Filipinos to the National Health Insurance Program.
"This can also be some kind of parang blessing in disguise. Serendipitous kasi parang na-accelerate itong universal health care because of the COVID-19," he said.
"It's a catalyst, although COVID-19 did expose the fissures, the cracks, the weakness of our Philippine health system," he added.
The Philippines is now the top Southeast Asian country in terms of COVID-19 infections, with over 182,000 cases, despite having the world's longest quarantine.