Full Transcript: Lacson’s PhilWealth and Department of Wealth Privilege Speech

Politics & Governance

Below is Senator Panfilo Lacson’s PhilWealth and Department of Wealth privilege speech delivered July 29, 2019 at Senate:

Mr. President, I stand before you on a matter of personal and collective privilege.

During his Fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA), we heard President Rodrigo Roa Duterte loud and clear:

“You are free to investigate. I don’t take offense. If there is anything wrong in my department, the executive, you are free to investigate. Feel free to expose anything….”


In all of my years as a public servant and as a member of this revered institution, I have been unflinching in my fight against corruption and wrongdoings, blowing the lid off anomalous activities in the government – from the money-laundering scheme by one Jose Pidal; the diversion of P728 million in fertilizer funds engineered by one Jocjoc Bolante; Comelec Commissioner Virgilo Garcillano’s “Hello, Garci” tapes; the botched $329-million contract between the Philippine government and China’s ZTE for a national broadband network project; the “chopper scam” where secondhand helicopters were sold as brand-new to the Philippine National Police; the “Tara List” or Payola in the Bureau of Customs; and the cholesterol-rich pork barrel, to name a few.

Mr. President, hearing what we all heard from no less than the Chief Executive when he issued words of encouragement to us in a joint session of Congress last July 22, I could not help but respond to his call by talking to myself: Say no more, Mr. President! I did it many times before, and I will do it again as I do now. I will be presenting incontrovertible evidence. I leave it up you to act in the same way that you have acted many times before – swiftly and firmly.

We know for sure that we are on the right side of the fence when no less than the President of the Republic calls for the eradication of corruption, and vows no sanctuary to “sacred cows” in the government.

In corrupted offices, we tend to refuse to see the sacred cows – but when sacred cows become intolerable “mad cows” that bring transmissible, infectious, progressive, and fatal disease that continues to plague our country, an alert must be issued in no time.


Hence, with the same unwavering tenacity as before, I round up the herd, find the mad cow, chop its flanks, cut off its horns, and hopefully, lay it to rest.

Lately, I discovered one that is ill and disgusting.

I speak of the disease that besets our health sector, starting off from the state-run firm that provides public health insurance and health care services for all Filipino citizens – the corrupt and corrupting system of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, or PhilHealth.

And while President Duterte has acted with firmness and dispatch by assigning retired Army Maj. Gen. Ricardo “Dick” Morales, whose reputation as a no-nonsense and principled military officer precedes him, this humble representation still finds the need to expose shenanigans within PhilHealth, most of which were not covered by a recent series of jolting news reports in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and other media outlets.

Mr. President, PhilHealth is “bleeding dry,” and the Commission on Audit (COA) has raised red flags to call our attention.

It seems to me that year in, year out, its financial deficit spirals out of control. From 2013 to 2017, the net operating income of PhilHealth continues to be at the negative level: P5 billion in 2013; P1.8 billion in 2014; P5.7 billion in 2015 ; P6.1 billion in 2016; and P10.5 billion in 2017.

Mr. President, the fund viability, membership, collections and investments of the agency are not looking good, and the PhilHealth’s Actuarial Valuation Report of 2016 shows us a clear picture. The report exhorts, and I quote: “PhilHealth will go through difficult times and will encounter crisis if the recommendations will not be implemented.”

The agency’s performance is also dismal: 2017’s Performance Scorecard shows that it gained an overall score of only47.82% from the Governance Commission for Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations Scoreboard. This is disturbingly lower than the target score of at least 90% for its appointive members to be granted Performance-Based Incentives.

More disturbing is the fact that the GCG scored PhilHealth’s prosecution rate at 0%; arbitration rate at 0.14% and claims processing rate at 0%. Ironically, PhilHealth’s collection efficiency rate, meaning its ability to collect contributions from its members – is quite impressive at 79%.

What gives?

Mr. President, this is pain in the chest, especially of paying members of PhilHealth and that would include people in this hall and the gallery and the rest of the 18,207,555 Filipinos who pay mandatory contributions every month.

Meanwhile, more than one-third of the population still have no access to any form of PhilHealth Insurance.

PhilHealth is already operating at a loss, spending beyond its means – but where does the money go?

Here’s the paradox: the financial health of PhilHealth is fast deteriorating, and in fact, in a state of coma. The policies in place engender fraud and corruption and the crooks exploit the system.

There are several telling signs showing how PhilHealth wantonly drains the public coffers but those in the highest echelons of power in the agency seem to turn a blind eye, aggravating the degenerate state of the agency. We see various culprits and incarnates. One is the highly contentious and untenable policy called – All Case Rates or ACR payment scheme.

Simply put, PhilHealth pays per case, and not by actual expenses. These case rates are the new reimbursement rates for all cases specified, such as Professional Fees, and serve as package payment for health interventions to be paid to the Health Care Providers or Health Care Institutions.

It is a complete departure from the prior Fee-for-Service Payment Scheme.

Per PhilHealth Circular 31, s. 2013 (All Case Rates Policy No. 1), the payment scheme is founded on one underlying objective: increase support value to members.

Data from the 2014 Audit Observation Memorandum of the COA for Northern Mindanao shows us how the new case rate works: For example, in Bukidnon Provincial Hospital-Manolo Fortich, one patient treated for Pneumonia I registered actual hospital charges of only P4,820.00 but PhilHealth paid out P15,000.00 or an excess of P10,180.00.

A PhilHealth-accredited private hospital, Bongcas Holy Child Hospital also in Bukidnon, a patient with Typhoid Fever incurred P5,763.00, but PhilHealth paid out P14,000 or an overpayment of P8,237.00.

A case of Cesarean Section surgery in Lanao del Norte Provincial Hospital incurred hospital charges of P9,057.95, but PhilHealth reimbursed with P19,000.00 – a difference of P9,942.05.

From the said COA Audit alone, of the 6,128 cases recorded, an appalling 20% accounts to overpayment. Hence, when PhilHealth’s benefit claims reached unprecedented high levels from 2013 to 2018 using the All Case Rate payment method, without any iota of doubt, something does not add up.

In fact, the Corporation paid P512.6 billion in benefit claims from 2013 to 2018, of which the overpayment, if conservatively pegged at 20% based on COA estimates, would amount to P102.5 billion. If we are to include the global estimates on losses to fraud due to improper payments computed at 10% or P51.2 billion, we get an estimated PhilHealth losses to overpayment and fraud at P153.7 billion!

PhilHealth officials belatedly justify overpayments as nothing but “efficiency gains,” that is – hospitals that receive amounts in excess of their actual charges may use the funds to offset the losses they incur from other patients.

In fact, former PhilHealth President/Officer-In-Charge Dr. Roy Ferrer casually dismissed the issue and said the case rates are so designed so that health facilities can “win some and lose some.”

Let me ask: Win some for whom, and lose some for whom?

Between you and me, this justification is nothing but an afterthought; and it insults our common sense. By “winning some” for some hospitals, do they expect us to accept it to mean, PhilHealth “losing some” in billions of funds looted from the Corporation?

Let me indulge you with these findings:

On Pneumonia cases alone, the Bondoc Peninsula District Hospital’s actual charges are at a meager sum of P200,397.00, but PhilHealth has recorded a payment of P5,025,000.00 – easily, a 2,508% incremental difference. In the far-flung town in Sulu, the Siasi District Hospital only charged a total of P67,459, but as per Philhealth records, it paid out P430,500 to Siasi District Hospital or a 638% increase. In the National Capital Region, Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center charged around P5.2 million but the PhilHealth recorded reimbursements reached P28.8 million for a difference of P23.6 million or overpayment of 556%.

The 2013 to 2018 data culled from PhilHealth dashboard shows us that overpayments on Pneumonia cases alone can balloon from a low of 387% to a high of 2,508% in government hospitals.

They can call it any name – fancy or otherwise, common sense will tell us, these are not “efficiency gains” but flagrant pillage of public monies as well as hard-earned contributions from the more than 18 million paying members.

Private hospitals are likewise “winning some.” In fact, we found overpayments ranging from 100-fold to 700-fold higher than their actual hospital charges.

All right, let us assume for a while that “efficiency gains” is a sound and reasonable scheme to justify the PhilHealth’s “win some, lose some” formula.

Let us stretch our understanding that “efficiency gains” can benefit government hospitals as these overpayments, if actually received by them, may trickle down to the general public who are mostly poor and vulnerable, or for procurement of additional hospital facilities, or for other noble purposes. Granting without accepting, are there parameters or guidelines, and accounting of those overpayments? We tried hard to look, Mr. President. And we cannot find any.

And, why would private hospitals be accorded the same “efficiency gains” or benefits and incentives they claim to be given to government hospitals? Again, we have some representative samples of private hospitals under the same “efficiency gains” scheme.

Sa Region X, ang Olegario General Hospital ay nakatanggap diumano (iyun ay kung papaniwalaan natin ang PhilHealth) ng P38.2 milyon mula sa PhilHealth, samantalang P5.04 milyon lamang ang ginasta at siningil nito; nangangahulugang pumapalo sa 758% ang overpayment. Sa National Capital Region, ang Dr. Sabili Health Services ay gumasta at naningil ng P3.08 milyon lamang, subali’t sa record ng Philhealth, P20.7 milyon ang sabi nila ay naibayad, kaya 673% naman ang naging overpayment; samantala, ang Eastern Sun Medical and Diagnostic Center, Inc. ay may gastos na siningil sa PhilHealth na P4.7 milyon lamang pero ang PhilHealth naman, base sa record ay nagbayad ng P29.6 milyon, kaya higit sa 628% naman ang sobrang bayad.

We can go on and on with our list, Mr. President – kaya lang, it may be hazardous to our health. Baka ma high blood lang tayong lahat.

PhilHealth boldly claims that these health institutions actually received these abnormally high overpayments. But I couldn’t help but wonder — with nothing but words from PhilHealth officials, how can we take those words when there is no showing that these hospitals actually received the overpayments?

Overpayments are monies that invite fraud and corruption: No one keeps track where it goes, which health programs it funds, which PhilHealth members it benefits.

We already heard of the massive fraud perpetrated by the “modus operandi” of Wellmed Dialysis & Laboratory Center Corporation.

Ang mga lumantad na whistleblowers ay nagpahayag na nagsusumite ang WellMed ng pekeng benefit claims at ang pinaka nakakagalit pa sa lahat – ang paniningil ng Wellmed sa PhilHealth ng gastos para sa dialysis ng mga pasyenteng nangamatay na. In response, PhilHealth officers claimed that payment to WellMed was cut as early as January 2019, following reports of anomalies.

Pero binobola lang pala tayo, Mr. President. Business-as-usual pa rin ang Wellmed sa pagkubra ng reimbursements. Sa katunayan, base sa nakuha naming datos sa PhilHealth Dashboard ng Central Office, mula Enero hanggang Hunyo 2019, ang kabuuang reimbursements ng Wellmed ay pumalo pa rin sa P4.24 milyon. Noong nakaraang buwan lamang, kumita pa rin ang Wellmed ng P1,224,600 mula sa PhilHealth.

Ang saya-saya nila, Mr. President! Not only did Wellmed continue to receive payments, it was also paid in record speed, with turn around time as short as two (2) days at the time when the fraud was already made public. Kanino ba nagmamano itong may ari ng Wellmed at tila napakalakas?

Marahil kung makakabangon lamang ang mga dialysis patients na namatay at nailibing na, at kung hindi pa nabuko ay patuloy pa ring pinagkakakitaan ng Wellmed, ewan ko na lang kung sinu-sino ang una nilang dadalawin para pagsasasakalin.

Hindi lamang ghost patients mayroon ang PhilHealth. Mayroon din silang “overstaying patients” o mga pasyenteng pinapauwi na ng doktor eh kung bakit ayaw pang pauwiin ng ospital para lang mapagkakitaan pa ang PhilHealth.

Ang masama, tila kinukunsinti pa ng ahensya ang ilang mga ospital sa mga kalokohan nito.

A case in point is the Perpetual Succour Hospital based in Cebu, which was found guilty of extending confinement to siphon PhilHealth funds.

In 2011, the hospital filed benefit claims extending the period of confinement of two patients with the intent to defraud PhilHealth. For one, instead of recording the hospital doctor’s “May Go Home” order on 22 July 2011 for patient, (let’s call her Maria), Perpetual Succour Hospital filed for her confinement a day longer.

Meanwhile, another patient (let’s refer to him as Jose), whose confinement covered inclusive dates of December 25, 2010 to February 3, 2011, was reported to be confined until February 7, or a four-day confinement extension.

Due to this, the PhilHealth Arbitration Office adjudged Perpetual Succour Hospital guilty of “extending period of confinement” and meted the penalty of three months’ suspension and a fine of P10,000.00.

As part of due process, the hospital filed a motion for reconsideration with the PhilHealth Board of Directors, which in the exercise of its quasi-judicial powers, denied the motion and upheld the Arbitrator’s decision.

Consequently, a petition for review was filed by the hospital with the Court of Appeals. Finding no merit, the CA Division dismissed the petition, and the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the hospital was likewise denied. An Entry of Judgment was made by the Court of Appeals on April 19, 2018, which means that the petition has become final and executory and recorded in the CA’s Book of Entry of Judgments.

Despite this, the Philhealth Board, acting on a letter-request for reconsideration filed by Perpetual Succour, in a brazen display of grave abuse of discretion, set aside the Final Executory Judgment of the Court of Appeals and instead imposed the penalty of P100,000.00 fine in lieu of the penalty of three months’ suspension and a fine of P10,000.00.

Imagine this: para sa isang ospital tulad ng Perpetual Succour na kumokolekta sa PhilHealth ng hindi bababa sa P30 milyong monthly average na koleksyon, ano na lang ang halaga ng P100,000 na multa? Ako na rin ang sasagot Mr. President: Barya. Dahil sa tatlong buwan na dapat ay suspendido ang Perpetual Succour Hospital ay halos P100 milyong ang malamang na nakolekta nila sa PhilHealth.

Perpetually lucky.

One may ask: Can the Board legally do it? What is its legal basis and authority in overturning a final executory judgment rendered by no less than the Court of Appeals? Why would the PhilHealth board even do that, Mr. President? Maybe, the better question is – Magkano?

I know that PhilHealth has so much on its plate, the issues of overpayments and fraud are just a prelude to its telltale chronicle of shenanigans and corruption.

Speaking of a tale of woe, PhilHealth faces another fiasco as plunder raps were filed against Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and his brother Atty. Gonzalo Duque. The case involves lease contracts that PhilHealth entered into with the Educational and Medical Development Corp. (EMDC) where the Duque brothers own shares.

Frankly, when I tripped on this anomaly in June of this year and called it a clear case of “conflict of interest,” I never thought I would hit a nerve so bad that Gonzalo Duque, a lawyer, would call me names after dismissing the issue of “conflict of interest.” It was a banter of poor taste borne out of anxiety – and how anxious he must be.

Documents show that PhilHealth’s Region 1 office had rented a building owned by the EMDC on Francisco Duque Jr. Street, Tapuac District in Dagupan City, from June 2012 to December 2018.

The lease payments of the Duque-owned building with a total floor area of 1,853 square meters steadily increased through the years: from monthly lease of P368,500 in 2012 to P432,305 in 2016. The contract for the year 2018 was amended to cover 2,051.4 square meters and the monthly rental was set at P529,261.04.

Copies of EMDC’s General Information Sheets (GIS) in our possession show that Secretary Duque was among the eight stockholders of the company, all of whom are from the Duque clan.

His siblings – Atty. Gonzalo Duque and Dr. Luz T. Duque-Hammershaimb – held the position of EMDC president exhibited in various lease contracts with PhilHealth.

Clearly, at the time PhilHealth was paying sums for lease payments to the Duque-owned building, Dr. Francisco Duque directly held concurrent positions in their family corporation and high-rank government posts which created an undeniable conflict of interest:

Noong 2012, habang siya ang nakaupong Executive Vice President ng EMDC, siya rin ang Chairman ng Civil Service Commission na kasabay na naglingkod bilang ex-officio member ng PhilHealth Board of Directors. Bukod pa rito, habang siya ay consultant ng Department of Health mula May 2015 hanggang June 2016, tumayo rin siya bilang Presidente ng EMDC.

A Supreme Court ruling, Funa vs Duque, ES, Office of the President (GR No 191672) on Nov 25, 2014 declaring as unconstitutional CSC Chairman Duque’s designation as ex-officio member of the PhilHealth board notwithstanding, the effects of his acts prior to the declaration of the unconstitutionality of a law or executive act cannot be erased, ignored or disregarded applying the doctrine of operative fact.

Ang pinakalantarang paglabag sa mga umiiral na batas ay ang pagpapatuloy ng kontrata sa pagitan ng EMDC at PhilHealth sa kabila ng pag-upo ni Dr. Duque bilang Kalihim ng Department of Health at kasabay nito, bilang Chairperson ng PhilHealth simula noong Oktubre 2017.

Ang EMDC ay nagpahayag noong Hunyo 2019 na wala na itong intensyong palawigin ang kontrata ng pag-upa ng PhilHealth na magtatapos sa Disyembre 2019; pero ginawa lamang ito pagkatapos na mabulgar ang isyu ng “conflict of interest” na nakapaloob sa kontratang ito. Ang gusto ba nilang sabihin, utang na loob pa ba natin sa pamilya nila na hanggang Disyembre na lamang magbabayad ang PhilHealth sa EMDC? Kaya naman hanggang sa mga sandaling ito, Mr. President, may nagaganap pa rin ang “conflict of interest.” Pakisagot nga, Attorney.

Mr. President, I wish to reiterate: under Sec. 3(i) of RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, and I quote:

“Conflict of interest arises when a public official or employee is a member of a board, an officer, or a substantial stockholder of a private corporation or owner or has a substantial interest in a business, and the interest of such corporation or business, or his rights or duties therein, may be opposed to or affected by the faithful performance of official duty.”

Under Sec 7 (Prohibited Acts and Transactions) of the same Republic Act:

(a) Financial and material interest – Public officials and employees shall not, directly or indirectly, have any financial or material interest in any transaction requiring the approval of their office.

If the case of the Duque family-owned EMDC is not a case of “conflict of interest,” I do not know what else to call it, Mr. President.

Going back to Atty Gonzalo Duque’s anxiety, I will quote his unwise and reckless words, directly referring to this representation. He said, without mincing words: “hindi mo magigising yung may purpose o nagtatanga-tangahan. Walang ospital para sa tanga.”

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, I could not agree more with Gonzalo Duque – Totoo namang walang ospital na makakagamot sa isang katulad ni Gonzalo.

Mr. President, the discovery of the ownership of the building in Dagupan being leased by PhilHealth has opened up yet another Duque-owned can of worms. It is called, DOCTOR’S PHARMACEUTICALS INC.

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, this time, I invite your attention to another “lucky” business entity that is the Doctors Pharmaceuticals Inc. – a drug manufacturing company located at #8 Veterans Center West Bicutan, Taguig City owned by… who else but the family of the Secretary of Health himself, Francisco T. Duque III.

Based on our data sourced from the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS), Doctors Pharmaceuticals Inc., with active Platinum membership, is an accredited corporation that bids for government contracts primarily with the Department of Health since Year 2005.

Ask a moron if there is something wrong with this situation, and surely, that moron will give you the correct answer, Mr. President.

That said, my office was able to acquire the General Information Sheet (GIS) of the company covering a 10-year period from 2008 to 2018. Under the list of Directors, Officers and Stockholders of Doctors Pharmaceuticals Inc. are very familiar surnames: Cesar T. Duque, Chairman with 60% shares; Joyce Ma Duque-, Treasurer with 20%; Dr. Luz Duque-Hammershaimb, President with 10%; a certain Leon S. Guerrero, Corporate Secretary with 8% (please let us know if this is you, Senator Lapid) and Ma. Theresa SP Castro, Chief Accountant with 2%.

Evidently, Mr. President, only 10% of the total shares belong to the non-Duque personalities from the list provided.

First, we ask, Mr. President, is it just a mere coincidence that Doctors Pharmaceuticals, Inc. became an accredited government contractor and supplier in the same year that Secretary Duque was confirmed by the Commission on Appointments as Secretary of Health during the Arroyo administration in 2005?

Further, Mr. President, we have noted a number of suspension and product recall orders released by the Food and Drug Administration to Doctors Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

This was during the incumbency of former Health Sec Janette Garin, who was also Acting Director-General of the Food and Drug Administration in concurrent capacity. In fact, I asked her if she knew at that time that she was suspending a Duque family-owned corporation. She did not.

Based on a routine inspection conducted between March 10 to 12, 2015, the FDA reported non- conformance to GMP or Good Manufacturing Practice of Doctors Pharmaceuticals Inc, hence ordering the company to immediately cease and desist from further manufacturing, distributing, and offering for sale, all concerned products for not complying with good manufacturing practice. She also discovered that Doctors Pharmaceuticals was also manufacturing for other companies. Hence the June 23, 2015 cease and desist order and the “recall of all drug products from March 14 up to the present” or June 23, 2015.

However, the FDA noted in January 2016, through an investigation prompted by an anonymous complainant, that Doctors Pharmaceuticals Inc. continued its production line despite the cease and desist order. The same inspection report recommended, thereafter, that the company stop production and distribution of pharmaceutical products until sufficient data was presented to prove that there was no contamination, and that the same were safe for consumption as in the case of amoxicillin, an antibiotic that the Doctors Pharmaceuticals Inc. was manufacturing with the same machines which they used to manufacture supplements such as Garcinia, a supplement used for weight loss. Hence, if consumers took their supplements, they might also be unknowingly taking antibiotics. The danger lies in that persons allergic to amoxicillin could be put in danger. Worse, if the antibiotic was consumed in suboptimal amounts, it could contribute to serious problem of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance has been identified by the World Health Organization as one of the most serious and dangerous issues the world is facing.

Halimbawa, isang kasama natin dito sa Senado, si Sen. Bato dela Rosa ay gustong magpapayat kaya umiinom siya ng juice na may Garcinia supplement. Pero lingid sa kaalaman niya, iisang makina lang ang ginagamit ng kumpanya na nagsu-supply sa DOH ng pagtimpla ng Garcinia food supplement at amoxicillin na isang antibiotic. Nagkataong allergic pala sa antibiotic si Sen. Bato. Napakadelikado po nito baka sa halip pumayat si Sen. Bato, baka hindi na siya tubuan ng buhok. Pasensya ka na Ronald, wala na ang mistah ko nasa DICT na, ikaw lang ang kaya ko rito.

Levity aside Mr. President, yan ang naging violation ng Doctors Pharmaceuticals kaya sinuspindi noong Marso 2015.

Despite the recorded violations of the company as food supplement manufacturer, it still managed to apply and acquire automatic renewal of its License to Operate in 2016. This is a case of setting aside health for wealth, Mr. President.

When the pharmaceutical company that is awarded contract to supply medicines to the Department of Health does not observe good manufacturing practice in the manufacture of its medicines, does this not pose a threat to the health and safety of our public?

Bear with me, Mr. President, I could not help my investigative instincts. Was Doctors Pharmaceuticals actually setting aside health for wealth?

In our efforts to dig deeper and convince ourselves with evidence involving this corporation, we referred to the PhilGeps database to see and examine the contracts granted to Doctors Pharmaceuticals. Strangely, Mr. President, we were able to extract only five notices of awards from December 2016 to July 2017 because PhilGeps’ website went offline for an unusually long period of time. Anyway, examples of such Award Notices are as follows:

*** Award Notice Abstract Ref No 1555775 and Award Notice Abstract Ref No 15557777 awarded to Doctors Pharmaceuticals Inc., Contact Person: Cesar T. Duque, President, for Procurement of Clozaphine, with a contract amount of P395,040.00 and P3,102,000.00 respectively with Contract Award Date: 24-Jul-2017, both under Contract Number: GOP-2017-06-0193 with Contract Effectivity Date: 13-Sep-2017 and Contract End Date: 13-Nov-2017. ***

*** Another Award Notice Abstract Ref No 1377959 has an Award Date: 08-Dec 2016 and Contract End date: 31-Dec-2017 ***

Take note that Sec. Duque was appointed DOH Secretary in October of 2017.

As a former Chairman of the Civil Service Commission, Sec Duque, more than many of us, should know by heart the code of conduct and ethical standards for public officials.

Is it not incumbent upon Secretary Duque to exercise professionalism and ethical standards by stopping all dealings of his family’s corporation with the very government agency that he heads?

Mr. President, even the Supreme Court itself has made clear that the observance of professionalism, in the context of Section 4 (a)(b) of R.A. No. 6713 or Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, means:

“… upholding the integrity of public office by endeavoring “to discourage wrong perception of their roles as dispensers or peddlers of undue patronage.”

Thus, a public official or employee should avoid any appearance of impropriety affecting the integrity of government services.

Another standard set forth by the same law through Section 4(c) provides that public officials “must act with justness and sincerity”. It further expounds that:

xxx

“They [Public Officials] shall not dispense or extend undue favors on account of their office to their relatives whether by consanguinity or affinity except with respect to appointments of such relatives to positions considered strictly confidential or as members of their personal staff whose terms are coterminous with theirs.”

xxx

In a speech by then CSC Chair Francisco T Duque III, during the Good Governance forum in July of 2014, he said: “in government, it is important to care enough so as to stop or stem unethical practices before they become ingrained or systemic. The more we ‘let things pass,’ the more ethical standards get lowered.”

Secretary Duque’s words, not mine.

Mr. President, let me make it clear and put on record – walang personalan. I raise these questions to ensure that public funds are not misused and abused, and that the health and safety of the public are not put at risk for personal or family interest.

Mr. President, we are about to fully implement Republic Act No. 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act, which will give a full spectrum of health services to all Filipinos.

With it comes a big chunk of our annual budget. The budget appropriated for this law is pegged at P257 billion for this year. In fact, the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP), in which every Filipino shall be a member under the UHC, had appropriations of P52.2 billion and P60.6 billion in 2017 and 2018, respectively. For this year, P67.35 billion has been allocated for the program.

We cannot afford to lose one peso from policy failures, insurance frauds, and conflict of interests. Besides, Mr. President, these are the country’s PhilHealth and Department of Health that we are talking about, not PhilWealth and Department of Wealth.

Be that as it may, Mr. President, I refuse to believe that the Agency is rotten to the core. In fact, I have heard of many honest and well-meaning PhilHealth officers and employees who braved the odds and blew the whistle on these various anomalies in the Corporation. But they all found themselves thrown under the bus and harassed with concocted, fabricated offenses. They may now find comfort under the new leadership. I urge them to report everything they know and present their evidence to their new PhilHealth President.

From all these accounts, we see that like a biological organism, machinations on the misuse of public power for private gain continue to evolve, thrive, and linger.

Amid these shenanigans, it behooves public servants, let alone the Secretary of Health, to rid himself of conflict of interest and put the interest of the people above everybody else. Nothing else will suffice. Falling short of this will compromise his office, principles, and integrity.

Someone once said: “Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.” Sadly, Mr. President, greed in this country has reached new, greater heights. It is now at the expense of the people’s health, one that is considered a fundamental part of our basic human rights.

Finally, I say with no reservation: Corrupt public officials have no place on earth. But corrupt officials stealing health funds deserve an upgraded and super special suite in hell.

Having said all that, I move that my privilege speech be referred to the Committee on Health and the Committee on Public Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations. Thank you, Mr. President.