Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) president Dante Gierran has been given an ultimatum by President Duterte to clean up the corruption-tainted state firm, suspend or terminate any erring officials before the end of the year, Malacañang announced Thursday.
The ultimatum on the PhilHealth cleanup was issued after the President expressed support for the abolition or privatization of the government firm that has been plagued with corruption allegations, according to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque.
“It is an ultimatum. You need to clean up PhilHealth by end of the year,” Roque quoted the order given by the President to Gierran, during the spokesman’s televised press briefing Thursday.
He said the President wants Gierran “to clean up the organization, file all the cases that need to be filed, suspend, terminate, whatever you need to do to cleanse the ranks of PhilHealth” before the end of the year.
Gierran, former director of the National Bureau of Investigation, was appointed to head PhiHealth late last month. He replaced Ricardo Morales who resigned due to his medical condition.
Roque also confirmed reports that the President wants PhiHealth abolished or transformed into a private entity.
“Ang paninindigan ni President ay either i-abolish or i-privateize yan. sinabi naman yan sa pagpupulong ng ilang miyembro ng IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) (The President’s stance is either to abolish or privatize that. He has mentioned it in a meeting with some members of the IATF),” he said.
Roque however said Sotto has suggested to better wait if PhilHealth could still be cleansed by the new management before making a final decision on the abolition or privatization of the state health insurer.
He noted that Sotto has proposed to appoint the Finance Secretary as PhilHealth board chairman instead of the Health Secretary. “Ang primary function naman ng PhilHealth is that of an insurance business and therefore it should the Secretary of Finance and not the Secretary of Health charing the board),” he said.
Roque said the President had a “favorable reaction” to Sotto’s proposal to install the finance chief as PhilHealth board chairperson. He maintained though that it is up to lawmakers to amend the law creating PhilHealth to allow such change in the board chairmanship.
“PhilHealth was created pursuant to law amended by the Universal Health Care Law and it depends on the wisdom of Congress if they feel that the legislative basis for the existence of PhilHealth should be amended, so be it, the President will respect that,” he said.
On whether there was still time to amend the PhilHealth law, Roque said the present Congress already has a “proven track record of passing the relevant and urgent legislation at the soonest time possible.”
Early this week, the President endorsed the filing of administrative and criminal complaints against Morales and several other high ranking PhilHealth officials over their involvement in alleged anomalies in the state firm.
The concerned officials allegedly committed negligence in the discharge of their duties, particularly on some alleged irregular disbursement of Interim Reimbursement Mechanism given to hospitals as well as the procurement of information technology equipment.
The task force recommended filing of complaints for offenses such as graft, malversation of public funds, tax violations, gross neglect of duty and falsification of documents.