DOJ: ‘No legal issue’ on proposed transfer of PhilHealth to President’s office
MANILA, Philippines — There is no legal issue with the proposed transfer of supervision of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), an attached agency of the Department of Health (DOH), to the Office of the President (OP), according to Justice Undersecretary Raul Vasquez.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) undersecretary said this in his letter addressed to DOH Usec. Kenneth Ronquillo and the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) last June 26 after the latter agencies sought legal opinion on the proposal, which DOH Secretary Teodoro Herbosa earlier claimed would make PhilHealth operations more efficient, specifically improving its healthcare-related services to its 55.3 million members.
“We advise that there is no legal issue on the possible transfer of the PhilHealth to the OP as it is a legitimate exercise of the President’s power of control over the executive department, bureaus, and offices, which justifies an executive action to carry out reorganization measures to ensure an efficient bureaucracy,” Vasquez wrote in his letter.
“The 1987 Constitution expressly confers to the President the power of control over all executive departments, bureaus, and offices. Corollary, the Constitution’s express grant of the power of control in the President justifies an executive action to carry out reorganization measures under a broad authority of law,” it added.
Citing Section 31 of the Administrative Code of 1987, Vasquez further said that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. may reorganize the administrative structure of his office “to achieve simplicity, economy, and efficiency in the government” by “abolishing, consolidating or merging units thereof or transferring functions from one unit to another.”
Among the points DOJ addressed, aside from the proposed transfer, were its effects on Section 31 of Republic Act (RA) 10606 or the National Health Insurance Act of 2013 on the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee and the composition of the PhilHealth Board of Directors, as provided in RA 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act.
According to Vasquez, the authority of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee is to conduct the regular review of the implementation of RA 11223, while the National Health Insurance Program “shall provide health insurance coverage and ensure affordable, acceptable, available and accessible health care services for all citizens of the Philippines.”
However, he added, “[…] it is still the PhilHealth, as mandated by RA 7875, as amended, which will submit to the President of the Philippines and to both Houses of Congress, the Annual Report on the implementation of the NHIP.”
The justice department likewise sees no legal issue on the effects of transfer to the abovementioned laws citing the Administrative Code of 1987’s Section 30, which states that: “Agencies under the Office of the President shall continue to operate and function in accordance with their respective charters or laws creating them, except as otherwise provided in this Code or by law.”
“Thus, the exercise of the power of reorganization recognizes the President’s authority to effect organizational changes in a manner he deems fit to carry out his policies and directives in the department or agency under the executive structure, which may entail altering or maintaining the current administrative structure, including the composition of personnel or its Board of Directors,” Vasquez wrote.