Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
A survey conducted over the weekend has revealed that 14 of 23 Filipinos in the UAE would put on hold at least for this year, their membership contributions to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), the government-owned-and-controlled corporation created in 1995 to implement the Filipinos’ universal health programme with the mission and vision to provide everyone, regardless of socio-economic status, equitable and smooth access to medical/health services.
Gulf Today conducted the survey as PhilHealth has been on tenterhooks to say the least. Allegations of deep-seated and widespread corruption committed by its officials in collusion with their subordinates have been ongoing for years but fell on deaf ears until the novel coronavirus set in and made these more scandalous with the recent unearthing of over Php14 billion (over Dhs1 billion) having been mis-used, the tip of the iceberg.
Thus, on Sept. 1 (Tuesday), the Philippines’ D Senate Committee of the Whole chaired by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, after three weekly over 10-hour hearings, had recommended the filing of malversation of funds alongside the violation of laws relative to the illegal use of public funds or property, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Government Procurement Reform Act against PhilHealth chairperson/Health Secretary Francisco Duque Jr., resigned PhilHealth president/chief executive officer Ricardo Morales (ironically assigned by President Duterte to investigate the years of corruption happening) and five of their senior colleagues, alongside personnel who have been colluding with them, at least for the past 19 years.
At the onset of the pandemic, Filipinos in the UAE were among the more vocal – aside from their countrymen in Italy and Hong Kong – and decried the PhilHealth decision of 2019 relative to the revitalised Universal Health Law to increase their contributions.
A general comment of the 14 of the 23 was the demand for the Duterte Administration to finally fix and overhaul PhilHealth so it could be trusted again.
Ajman resident Beng Jimenez volunteered that the medical and hospitalisation expenditure “of my mother-in-law were reimbursed.”
Dubai resident Rod Palomar Jr. wanted to know “if the use of MRI, CT Scan and X-ray Radiation (are not reimbursable).” He was informed by a PhilHealth employee, a few years back, when his son, Randolph, a brain cancer patient, was on treatment at the Cardinal Santos General Hospital in Metro Manila, that these machines used “are not covered but based on the Senate investigations, Welmed Dialysis Centre was able to reimburse and the machines there are the same machines used for my son’s treatment.”
Gulf Law (Dubai)-Corporate/Commercial Department director Atty. Barney Almazar said: “PhilHealth has been chronically ill even prior to the pandemic. The way it is currently organised is geared towards ensuring that corruption is facilitated with impunity. Ironically, the laws which are meant to protect the people’s interests have been used to enable all the anomalies.”
United International Private School (Dubai)- Community Relations/Corporate Social Responsibility manager Jennifer Gonzales are among four of the 23 who would continue paying their contributions despite the Senate recommendations: “Let us not be emotional. Not all government employees are corrupt. I hope that my contributions would be of help and give essence to what Universal Health is all about. I am thinking of those unable to get health services because they do not have any means.”
Sharjah resident Wilson Orines said one could not blame those irked by the alleged corruption and the Senate conclusions: “What is happening to PhilHealth is a test of what Jesus wants us to obey and that is to love our neighbour. On a wider scope, how are we going to help those in dire need of medical services yet they could not receive because of the lack of money?”
Rights Corridor managing director Froilan Malit Jr. said: “The current alleged corruption clearly presents serious political and institutional legitimacy crisis within our domestic institutions like PhilHealth. While many Filipino diasporic communities have initially expressed discontent with previous mandatory-charging policies of PhilHealth, the current corruption cases will not only further generate mistrust but also exacerbate existing tensions between the Filipino diaspora and our state bureaucracies.”
Quintana was interviewed after the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi sent across a media statement regarding her meeting with the 32 on separate occasions, “with the kind assistance of the UAE authorities.”
Of the 50,000, 2,600 have availed of the repatriation programme covering free airline tickets courtesy of the Department of Foreign Affairs (Manila)-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs.
Filipinos in the UAE said President Rodrigo Duterte should have the controversial 25-year-old Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) revamped, instead of abolishing it, as this universal health institution has a noble intention, despite having been hounded by infixed corruption since its creation in 1995 by President Fidel Ramos.
Train companies said only a fifth of passenger services would run, as about 40,000 cleaners, signalers, maintenance workers and station staff walked off the job in Britain’s biggest and most disruptive railway strike for 30 years.
The anniversary is one of the highest-profile political events in a year when Xi is widely believed to be trying to break with tradition and award himself a third five-year term as party leader.
The nuclear deal has been hanging by a thread since 2018, when then US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord and began imposing crippling economic sanctions on America's arch enemy.