During a Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on the alleged corruption issues plaguing state insurer Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) on Tuesday, August 11, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go called for the punishment of those who are responsible for the irregularities within the agency, stressing that corruption is a disease that the country needs to both cure and prevent.
In his opening statement during the inquiry, the Senator remarked, “Itong PhilHealth issues na pinag-uusapan natin dito ay parang isang sakit. Totoo naman, ang corruption at walang pakundangang pagnanakaw mula sa kaban ng bayan ay talaga namang sakit ng lipunan.”
“Kagaya ng lahat ng sakit, dalawa ang dapat nating gawin – curative and preventive measures,” he added.
Citing the establishment of the newly formed Task Force that will investigate alleged corruption in the agency, Go said that it will serve as part of the curative measures to cleanse the agency of corruption.
“Una, kailangan itong gamutin. Kailangan ng curative measures kaya po nag-utos na si President Duterte na bumuo ng Task Force. “Hindi po lingid sa ating Pangulo ang mga alegasyon ng katiwalian sa PhilHealth. Alam naman po nating lahat, at patuloy ko nga pong sinasabi, na dapat walang masayang ni isang sentimo sa kaban ng bayan,” he added.
Go also mentioned that the Task Force is a whole-of-government approach involving several government bodies, saying, “nandito na po ang Department of Justice, ang NBI, ang PACC— Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission— with the support from the Office of the Ombudsman, Commission on Audit at iba pa,” Go said.
“Public office is a public trust. Walang puwang sa administrasyon na ito ang mga corrupt at mga magnanakaw. We expect this Task Force to initiate thorough investigation, conduct audit and lifestyle checks, recommend suspensions, prosecute and file cases, even dismissal, and ensure that those accountable to be put in jail. “At nabanggit po ng Pangulo na talagang yayariin niya kayo, nabanggit niya ‘yan kagabi. Alam kong nabibingi na tayong lahat sa walang katapusang alleged corruption sa PhilHealth. Dapat po ay masuspinde na ang dapat masuspinde para hindi na po makaimpluwensya at ma-lifestyle check na rin po,” he added.
But Go emphasized that resolving issues in PhilHealth is not the end of the government’s crusade against corruption.
Preventive measures such as the transition to E-governance are necessary to totally eliminate deeply-rooted and systemic corruption in government.
“Pero hindi dapat natatapos dito sa paggamot ang gagawin natin. Kailangan na rin nating gumawa ng mga hakbang para magkaroon ng ‘vaccine’. In other words, kailangan ng preventive measures para hindi na ito mangyari pang muli. Isa na nga po dito ang transition to e-governance to minimize red tape and eliminate corruption,” Go said.
Noting PhilHealth’s proposed transition to e-governance by adopting information technology tools which seek to reduce bureaucratic delays, improve accuracy of its database and eliminate corruption in the agency, Go said that it must be ensured that the proposed shift and the procurement of such IT equipment will also be free from corruption.
“While your efforts to initiate IT reforms are commendable, kailangan rin siguraduhin that the transition itself is free from corruption. Dahil kung magiging successful ang inyong initiative, magiging best practice ang tawag diyan, at gagayahin ng ibang ahensya sa pagtransition to e-governance. Pero kung sablay naman ‘yan at nababalot ng corruption, imbes na maging best practice kayo, magiging test case lang kayo ng Task Force laban sa corruption sa gobyerno,” he said.
Earlier, Go has echoed and reiterated President Rodrigo Duterte’s determination to put an end to deeply rooted and systemic corruption in government, following alleged anomalies in PhilHealth.
This led to the creation of a Task Force against corruption mandated to investigate, conduct lifestyle check, audit, recommend suspension, prosecute and file charges, and put in jail those responsible for these anomalies.
“Sabi ng Pangulo, kailangan mayroon talagang isang Task Force na may ngipin, at ‘yung ngipin na ito dapat mangangagat talaga ito, talagang tatalab mismo,” Go previously said.
“Kasi kung walang ngipin itong Task Force na ito, walang katapusan ito. At ang sabi ng Pangulo, hindi raw s’ya titigil na lalabanan ang korapsyon,” he added in his past statement emphasizing that the fight against corruption will intensify further towards the end of the term of the President.
“In the next two years, sabi niya ‘magwawala’ daw siya. Ibig sabihin ng ‘magwawala’ daw siya, gagawin niya ang lahat, sasagasaan niya ang dapat sagasaan, gagawin niya ang lahat para sa Pilipino po,” he stressed.
Go has earlier filed a measure institutionalizing the transition of the government to e-governance in the digital age, saying that it will reduce red tape and corruption, and improve efficiency and productivity of government processes.
Senate Bill No. 1738, or the E-Governance Act of 2020, mandates the government to establish an integrated, interconnected, and interoperable information and resource-sharing and communications network spanning the entirety of the national and local government, an internal records management information system, an information database, and digital portals for the delivery of public services.