Many Filipinos in UAE seek revitalisation of PhilHealth - GulfToday

Many Filipinos in UAE seek revitalisation of PhilHealth


Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

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.

Four were sought of their opinion over the weekend as Duterte within last week said he wanted the members of the House of Representatives legislative chamber go over the dismantling.

The alleged graft-and-corruption was spotlighted by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). A series of Senate investigations a month back had revealed the misuse of public funds amounting to at least Php14 billion (over Dhs1 billion).

On Saturday, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that nine former and current PhilHealth officials had been named as respondents to a set of “criminal complaints” filed by the National Bureau of Investigation “with endorsement from the Department of Justice” in the Office of the Ombudsman (the prosecution arm for Philippine public servants) for the purported misuse of Php30 billion (Dhs2,272,950,078.00) funds released to hospitals which are supposed to be COVID-19 centres but discovered otherwise.

On Sept.5, Gulf Today published a survey reflecting that Filipinos — 14 of 23 — would put on hold at least for 2020 the payment of their PhilHealth contributions brought about by the long-drawn contentious issue heightened by the pandemic.

Rights Corridor managing director Froilan Malit Jr. sees the significance of PhilHealth, terming it as a “vital government agency that can provide (the necessary) and critical health services to Filipinos. For him, though, the call to scrap it is a knee-jerk reaction and “serious political commitment is imperative.”

Malit said the abolition “displays the government’s ability to impose easy short-term (solutions). He added that a serious approach to the problem – ”in equal great measure” – must also be applied in “other public institutions mired by corruption. Transnational Filipino diasporic activism has undoubtedly played an influential role in magnifying these corruption scandals and such a voice should be genuinely and legislatively incorporated in future reforms in the Philippines.”

United International Private School (Dubai) Community Relations manager/former Commission on Overseas Filipinos undersecretary/executive director Jennifer Gonzales pointed out that she “has nothing against” Duterte’s stand on PhilHealth: “ I admire his wisdom. However, he should consider a moratorium or gradual revamp (instead). Total abolition means loss of jobs (and Christmas is fast approaching while it is pandemic), paying them gratuity and leave credits, (and their benefits from the Government Security Insurance System). I wish the President would create a transition committee to study and strategise plans. There are many experts in doing change management in the Philippines. The committee must come from the private sector to avoid the tilting of the balance of power (non-political).”

Gonzales claimed that change is an arduous trek and that PhilHealth is a wealth of lessons: “But you cannot just uproot corruption or the politics of accommodation in the system. Yet, we have to move forward for the sake of a better Philippines and more importantly for our next generations. And, before we complain, let us give chances to our leaders. Let the law prevail.”

Filipino Social Club adviser & legal representative/government maritime authority Organization Development & Rewards head Alan Bacason said: “To abolish PhilHealth is like solving a problem by creating another but a huge one. To privatise it may lead to profiteering (and defeats the noble purpose of equitable health access and benefits for all Filipino citizens).”

Bacason said an exhaustive review of the organisational structure and all its business processes must be completed combined with the implementation of corrective measures to end the collusion of “all the crooks (and their minions). Remove the unnecessary hierarchies; streamline the legal, procurement and other sensitive functions based upon identified pitfalls and risk motivations based upon non-conformance. Some support services must be outsourced. There should be on-the-spot auditing. The clauses for violators must be strengthened.”

Gulf Law-Corporate Commercial Department director Barney Almazar reiterated what Right Corridor’s Malit opined about the Filipinos’ lost of trust and confidence in PhilHealth arising from the decades-long anomalies and which past authorities failed to nail down: “The government must find a solution to regain the trust and respect of the Filipino people. Universal health coverage heavily rely on the government and the paramount performance indicator is how the poorest are treated (and benefitting). The government should do better at balancing Healthcare costs with access, quality and outcomes. The system must allow overseas Filipinos to choose their own packages. Computer systems upgrade will help monitor corruption.”

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