Senators: Fire Duque; emergency powers to fix PhilHealth not needed

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President Rodrigo Roa Duterte holds a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Malacañan Palace on March 9, 2020. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Friday dismissed the plan of a House of Representatives committee to grant President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers to fix systemic issues in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth), adding that firing Health Secretary Francisco Duque III will be a good start of the change they want.

“Emergency powers to reorganize Philhealth? Try real, honest-to-goodness, strong political will first. For a start, fire its ex-officio chairman,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said in a tweet.

“No matter how good our country’s economic managers are, if our health department is below the level of incompetence in the middle of this pandemic, we will all sink before we can even start to swim,” added Lacson.

Lacson has repeatedly called for Duque’s resignation since the supposed failure of the health chief to deal with the pandemic. He was among 17 senators who signed a resolution urging Duque to resign from his post.

Opposition Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan gave a similar statement.

“Kung seryoso talaga silang ayusin ang PhilHealth at tugunan ang COVID, sibakin nila si Duque at sampahan ng kaso ang mga nasa likod ng overpricing ng test kits, testing machines, at ng bilyong binulsa sa PhilHealth ng Mindanao mafia,” Pangilinan said.

[If they are really serious about fixing PhilHealth and responding to COVID, they should fire Duque and file charges against those behind the overpricing of test kits, testing machines, and billions of pesos pocketed by the PhilHealth mafia in Mindanao.]

“‘Yan ang solusyon, hindi emergency powers,” he said.

[That’s the solution, not emergency powers.]

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the House’s suggestion would be “opposed” in the Senate as the “President can reform and reorganize PhilHealth without emergency powers from Congress.”

“Congress has already delegated to the President, by virtue of RA 10149, the power to reorganize PhilHealth,” Drilon responded.

Under the said law, the President – through the Governance Council for GOCCs (GCG) – is authorized to reorganize all government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), as well as “evaluate the performance and determine the relevance of the GOCC.”

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