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Panfilo Lacson

Senate to ask PACC, CoA participation in PhilHealth investigation

THE PRESIDENTIAL Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) and the Commission on Audit (CoA) will be tapped by the Senate for its ongoing investigation on the alleged corrupt practices within the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), lawmakers said on Wednesday. Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said he will recommend inviting PACC Commissioner Greco B. Belgica to complement the Senate committee of the whole’s probe on the “widespread corruption” in PhilHealth. The PACC is conducting a separate investigation on the government insurance agency. Mr. Belgica, in an interview over One News, said the PACC has recommended to dismiss more than 30 PhilHealth officials who have been linked to fraudulent schemes. He also urged the Office of the Ombudsman to prioritize cases involving PhilHealth, considering the coming budget deliberations in Congress, which will appropriate funding to the agency for Universal Health Care (UHC) programs. “I-resolve muna natin ‘yung issue ng corruption. Bubuhusan mo na naman ng pondo, pagkatapos makakakita ka ng overpricing (Let’s first resolve the issue of corruption before we start pouring funds, then we see overpricing),” Mr. Belgica said. This comes after Tuesday’s Senate hearing where PhilHealth executives were accused of stealing some P15 billion through fraudulent schemes. The same hearing also found that PhilHealth is at risk of collapsing by 2022 due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara, meanwhile, said CoA can conduct a special audit on PhilHealth’s finances, which is provided for under the UHC Act and the law governing government-owned and -controlled corporations. “PhilHealth is losing money because of collusion between corrupt officials and hospitals/clinics who pay,” he said in a social media post on Wednesday. Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque gave assurance that the President will take appropriate action after the PACC and Senate investigations are completed. “I think after the evidence are unearthed, the President will move and do the correct thing,” he said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday. — Charmaine A. Tadalan and Gillian M. Cortez

Gov’t recruiting over 3,000 more health workers

THE GOVERNMENT is looking to recruit another 3,000 healthcare workers as the country’s coronavirus cases continue to increase. In a virtual briefing on Wednesday, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei B. Nograles said out of the 9,365 open positions in government hospitals for medical frontliners, “6,510 or 69.51%” have been filled. “Currently we are still recruiting more health workers targeted for deployment,” he said. Over the weekend, various medical groups called for a “timeout” through the imposition of a strict lockdown in the capital, citing that the unabated hike in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has overwhelmed frontliners. The country has recorded over 112,000 COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday. President Rodrigo R. Duterte has placed Metro Manila and the surrounding provinces of Rizal, Bulacan, Cavite, and Laguna under lockdown from August 4 to 18. The national task force handling the COVID-19 response is set to meet with the medical sector on Thursday to discuss the needs of health care workers. — Gillian M. Cortez 

SWS survey indicates about 3.5M Filipinos still locally stranded

ABOUT 3.5 million Filipinos remain locally stranded due to government restrictions to contain the coronavirus outbreak, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey shows. The SWS said its Mobile Survey conducted from July 3 to July 6 revealed that “5.1% of adult Filipinos were stranded by community quarantines.” This is equal to an estimated 3.5 million people based on the projected population for 2020 of 69.5 million adults. The non-commissioned survey was conducted on 1,555 adult Filipinos nationwide through mobile phone and computer-assisted telephone interviewing. The sampling error margin is ±2% for national percentages. The survey indicates that Mindanao residents were the highest in terms of stranding rate at 8%, followed by  those from the Visayas at 5.9%. Those whose permanent homes are in Luzon but outside Metro Manila had a 4.1% rate, and 2.1% for those permanently based in Metro Manila. — Gillian M. Cortez