Cabinet members should attend PhilHealth board meetings for COVID focus, not reps: Pangilinan

August 18, 2020

CITING the need for more transparency and accountability, and for faster and more focused government COVID response, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan asked Cabinet members to personally attend the board meetings of the beleaguered and soon-to-be bankrupt Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth). 

The Senate convened on Tuesday for the third public hearing on the alleged corruption in the Philippines’ state health insurance system where it was reported that Cabinet secretaries only send representatives to attend PhilHealth’s board meetings despite the Secretary of Health being Chairman of the Board. 

“I believe, given the serious challenges and problems that the PhilHealth is currently facing and the near-vacuum in leadership now confronted by these leaves of absences, baka dapat siguro mandatuhin na ‘yung secretary mismo ng Finance, DBM, DSWD — ‘yung mga aktwal na mayroong kapangyarihan eh dapat pumasok na rin at mag-participate dito sa mga board meetings na ito as we work on reforming and exercising transparency and accountability sa PhilHealth board,” Pangilinan said, referring to the Departments of Budget and Management, and Social Welfare and Development.

“Mas mabilis ang magiging kilos kung mismong mga secretary na mismo ng mga departamento ang nakaupo para agad-agad na madedesisyunan, hindi ‘yung makupad at matagal tayong naiipit sa burukrasya,” he said.

Speaking from experience, Pangilinan related how the attendance of Cabinet secretary-members allows efficiency and faster decision-making in government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs).

Pangilinan was chairman of the Board of the National Food Authority (NFA) from March 2014 to October 2015.

“We were able to precisely make painful and difficult decisions as we reformed the NFA then. We were able to reduce rice inflation from 15% to 0.8 percent in one year precisely because you have the Cabinet secretaries all supporting our efforts. So I recommend that Secretary, and I am glad you are open to it and I hope to see them actively participating in the PhilHealth board meetings even just for six months just to put things in order and get your organization in the right track,” Pangilinan said. 

At an earlier hearing, it was revealed that about P15 billion funds have been stolen from PhilHealth.



Quoting Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong that only 0.6% of local government units have the capacity to do contact-tracing, Pangilinan also questioned the Department of Health on the current contract-tracing capacity of LGUs.

“Two weeks ago, sabi po ni Mayor Magalong, of the 600 plus LGUs that responded to his email regarding contact tracing, only 0.6 percent have the capacity to do contact tracing…Where are we now after two weeks? Sabi niyo aggressive contact tracing. How do you jump from 0.6 percent of your LGUs being able to do contact tracing, to be able to address itong challenges ng contact tracing?” Pangilinan asked. 

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III revealed that it is his first time to come across a very low 0.6 percent of the LGUs or barangays that have the capacity to contract trace. He said that the DOH want to look into it very closely.

“Unless we are able to bring down those numbers, ang nangyari po kasi, kalahati pa lang ang August pero mas marami na ang numero ng cases sa buong July. Until bumaba yung numero, di ba, wala tayong kumpiyansang lumabas, wala tayong kumpiyansang mag-invest, wala tayong kumpiyansang ma-re-open man ang economy, ay hindi pa rin lalabas ang tao at apektado tayong lahat,” Pangilinan said, after Duque confirmed that the cases reported in the first two weeks of August were already more than the number of cases in July.

“Yun lang ang concern natin and that’s why contact tracing is critical, more testing is critical so that we can treat those whom we have been able to identify,” Pangilinan said.

In February, Pangilinan already hit the health department over its failure to conduct efficient contact-tracing following the country’s second case of COVID.

The Philippines today has reverted to general community quarantine (GCQ) despite passing over 164,000 cases as of August 17.