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House panels reject move to exclude PhilHealth board from coverage of recommended charges

/ 06:20 PM October 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Two committees at the House of Representatives rejected Tuesday a move to exclude board members of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) from those covered by the panels’ recommended filing of charges amid the alleged anomalies in the agency.

During the joint meeting of the House committee on public accounts and the committee on good government and public accountability, Bulacan 1st District Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado proposed an amendment that the PhilHealth board be removed from those covered by the recommended charges of the panel concerning the implementation of the all-case rate system.

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In the committees’ original recommendation, administrative charges should be filed against former Health Secretary Enrique Ona and all ex officio and appointed members of the board who approved the policies governing the all-case rate system.

“Proposal for amendment lang, ‘yung sa irregularities ng implementation kasi, policy-making body natin yung board. Ang nag-execute nito yung executive division ng PhilHealth,” Sy-Alvarado said.

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“Hindi ko nakikitaan na masama yung hangarin ng ACR, bagamat yung implementasyon nito, doon nagkaroon ng problema. Kaya kung mamabutihin ng joint committee ay matanggal sana sa recommendation for case filing ang members of the board at mapalitan ng members of the executive committee,” he added.

Kabayan Rep. Ron Salo backed Sy-Alavarado’s motion.

“Ang recommendation dito ay ang file-an ang nag-craft ng policy, hindi yung nag-iimplement,” Salo said.

“So I completely concur with the recommendation of Chairman Sy-Alvarado na mas maganda ang ating rekomendasyon ay tignan, busisiin at file-an ang nag-eexecute, nag-iimplement ng polisiyang ito,” he added.

Salo also raised points on filing charges against the board, which includes possible confusion on the current board regarding whether they would still implement the all-case rate system.

Several lawmakers, however, opposed this motion.

Agusan del Norte 1st District Rep. Lawrence Fortun said that lawmakers could not remove right away recommendations for filing appropriate actions against the PhilHealth board members.

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“I agree with the Chair [Mike Defensor] na maaaring iba ang degree ng pagkakamali ng members of the board as compared to those who are members of the executive committee that are actually involved in the implementation of the case rate system,” Fortun said.

“Sa tagal kasi na nandyan ang all case rate system and overtime, it should be impossible for the board not to have seen the anomalies in the implementation of the all-case rate system. It appears that the members of the board did not initiate any action that should correct the implementation of the all-case rate system,” he added.

Fortun said that the board members should have acted on the issues seen during the implementation of the all-case rate system and introduced necessary reforms to address the anomalies.

“Pwedeng ang maging recommendation nation ay tingnan ang possibiliy of filing appropriate actions against members of the board but removing them from the list ng pwede nating bigyan ng kaukulang kaso, sabihin ko mali ‘yun,” Fortun said.

“My suggestion is to retain them there, not necessarily to face the same cases as those in the members of the executive committee but definitely there should be a recommendation to at least consider the filing of appropriate actions against members of the PhilHealth [board],” he added.

As the lawmakers were about to vote on Alvarado’s motion, the hearing was suspended to resolve technical issues as those present on videoconferencing are having a hard time hearing the discussions.

When the hearing resumed, Sy-Alvarado amended his motion and turned it into an omnibus motion, thus removing the PhilHealth board members from the recommended charges in all issues involving the state insurance agency and not just the issue of all-case rate system.

A number of lawmakers once again rejected this.

“Maaaring ang iilan ay pabor na tanggalin silang lahat sa lahat ng kaso, yung iba naman ay tutol dito. Once na ma-adopt itong omnibus motion, maa-absolve na rin sila sa ibang kaso na maaaring ang ibang members might want them to be involved,” Fortun said.

“This would cover everything and we would not have a chance already to have them included in the recommendations for filing of charges in other cases,” he added.

The PhilHealth board includes Health Secretary Francisco Duque, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista, and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.

Following the voting, the omnibus motion was rejected.

Later in the hearing, the House panels approved the committee report pushing for the filing of charges against Duque and other PhilHealth officers. [ac]

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