Gordon, Senate Committee of the Whole findings differ on PhilHealth mess

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 03 2020 10:39 AM

MANILA - The Senate is expected to tackle another report detailing anomalies in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp next week, after the chamber deferred Sen. Richard Gordon's draft committee report in plenary on Wednesday.

Gordon earlier said his draft report - which has yet to be signed by majority of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee members - recommended technical malversation charges against former Budget Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad and former Health Secretary Janette Garin for allegedly diverting P10.6-billion in PhilHealth funds “to finance the 2016 elections.”

It also tagged PhilHealth's regional vice presidents as the masterminds of illegal schemes in the agency, but other senators opted to defer the discussion of the bill until September 7.

Sen. Gordon's report will be tackled next week "provided that he can get enough signatures," said Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who was presiding over the session.

Under the Senate's rules, the findings of a Senate investigation must first be approved by the committee before it can be included in the chamber's plenary agenda.

Last week, Lacson said it might be hard for other senators to back Gordon's report because it "contradicts" the Senate Committee of the Whole findings that was approved by 22 members, including Gordon.

The Senate Committee of the Whole recommended the filing of malversation and graft charges against Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, resigned PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales and other executives.

But Gordon's report passes the blame to PhilHealth's regional vice presidents, who provided documents and evidence used and cited to formulate the Committee of the Whole's findings, Lacson said.

Gordon defended his report, saying: "I don't have to be threatened. Kung ayaw ng mga kasama natin, wala akong magagawa, hindi ako mamimilit."

(If our colleagues don't want to sign it, I can't do anything about it, I won't force anyone.)

"I don't have to be insulted as if I don't know the rules... don't stop me from saying... na parang I am muzzled here because we have alliances... at may alliances na matatamaan diyan," he said.

"Hindi ko ito fina-fastbreak (I am not trying to fastbreak this). I think this is a good report, but if you don't agree, what can I do?" 

Lacson clarified that he did not mean to insult the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chair.

"It was not meant to insult. It was just a statement of fact... We all know the rules of the Senate," he said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the 2 Senate findings were "complementary."

"Wala akong nakikitang conflict. Ang nakikita ko complementary," Sotto told reporters in an online press conference.

(I don't see any conflict. I see it as complementary.)

"Mahirap pag-isahin pero I don't see any conflict at all," he said.

(It's hard to consolidate the reports, but I don't see any conflict at all.)