PhilHealth corruption cases won’t affect members’ benefits — DoJ

THE delivery of benefits to Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) members will not be affected by the corruption cases filed or endorsed against several officials of the state-run agency, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra assured on Sunday. Most of the cases were based on investigations undertaken by member agencies of the task force led by the Department of Justice (DoJ). “(T)hese (PhilHealth) benefits will not be affected in any way,” Mr. Guevarra said in a mobile message on Sunday. Task Force PhilHealth was created by the DoJ based on a memorandum from President Rodrigo Duterte issued on August 7, 2020 to address alleged systematic anomalies in the agency. Other members of the task force are the Office of the Ombudsman, Commission on Audit, Civil Service Commission, Office of the Executive Secretary, Office of the Special Assistant to the President, and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC). Among the alleged irregularities in PhilHealth are the disbursement of payments covering “ghost” patients in connivance with private health care facilities, and unaccounted funds advanced to both private and government-run hospitals. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago

Bill seeks better support program for increasing out-of-school youth

SENATOR Juan Edgardo M. Angara has flagged the increasing number of out-of-school youth (OSY) due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the education sector, and called for the passage of a law that seeks to support school dropouts. Citing data from the Department of Education (DepEd), Mr. Angara said enrollees as of August 2020 dropped to around 23 million from 27.7 million in 2019. Around 2.75 million of the four million who dropped out were private school students. “We understand that the sharp drop in enrollment for the current school year was due to the restrictions on face-to-face education. We hope to see these figures improve once our schools start to open up again, albeit gradually,” Mr. Angara said in a statement. The senator also cited 2017 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showing that 3.53 million out of 39.2 million Filipinos aged 6 to 24 were considered out-of-school youth, around 50% of whom belong to families in the bottom 30% of the population based on their per capita income. “The data is alarming and there is a real danger that we’ll end up with even more OSYs now because of the impact of the pandemic on family incomes and the challenges posed by blended learning on both students and their parents alike,” he said. Senate Bill 1090 or the Magna Carta of the Out-of-school Youth aims to strengthen the government’s policies and programs for out-of-school youth. Among the programs of the proposed law include free mandatory technical/vocational education through the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) as well as their inclusion in various government scholarship and financial assistance schemes. The bill defines out-of school youth as 15 to 30-year olds who are “not in school, not gainfully employed, and have not finished college or a post-secondary course.” The bill filed in October 2019 is pending at the committee level. Similar bills were also filed by Senators Sherwin T. Gatchalian, Maria Lourdes Nancy S. Binay, and Ramon B. Revilla, Jr. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas