By Macon Araneta

Sen. Panfilo Lacson  said the Senate may initiate its own filing of charges against Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) officials not charged by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) over the alleged massive corruption involving the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM).

Although the Senate had its own probe, he said the complaints filed by the NBI against the erring PhilHealth officials are based on the investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ)- led task force. He said it is likely that the Senate and the DOJ have different views on the cases. 

The Senator also noted that, despite the filing of the complaints, the task force has yet to finish its probe. They were only pressed to submit their report due to Duterte’s one-month deadline.

Due to this, Lacson said Health Sec. Francisco Duque III and former PhilHealth Senior Vice- president Rodolfo Del Rosario Jr. may still be included among those who will be charged after the second phase of the task force’s investigation.

Both Duque and Del Rosario were among the PhilHealth officials recommended by the Senate to be charged following their own investigation into the issue.

Among those facing complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman are resigned PhilHealth Chief Ricardo Morales, Executive Vice-president and COO Arnel De Jesus, and Senior Vice- presidents Renato Limsiaco, Jr. and Israel Francis Pargas.

Meanwhile , Sen. Christoper “Bong” Go hopes that PhilHealth reforms lead to corruption-free services for Filipinos.

Go,  chair of the  Senate Health committee, said  the newly appointed PhilHealth President Dante Gierran must be given a chance to cleanse the agency of corruption before considering privatizing or abolishing PhilHealth. 

To further  boost efforts to combat corruption, Go urged all government employees to report questionable activities that may be taking place within government offices. 

He also said that to improve  the management of the agency’s finances, Senate President Vicente  Sotto III filed a bill which will amend the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act and replace the Health secretary with the Finance secretary as ex-officio chair of the PhilHealth’s governing board. Go gave his support for this proposed measure. 

The Senator also stressed that Duque is doing his best to lead the Department of Health and overcome the COVID-19 pandemic by fulfilling his responsibilities at the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, among others.

He said Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez III pledged to go after all corrupt individuals within and outside the PhilHealth should the amendment be passed making him the ex-officio chair of the PhilHealth Board. 

As this developed, Go said he strongly objected to the privatization of PhilHealth, warning that it may become a business and profit-oriented.

“And the business of government is not profit. It is service,” said Go .