President Rodrigo Roa Duterte ordered the creation of a Task Force, through a memorandum released today, August 7, to investigate the alleged widespread corruption and anomalies in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation or PhilHealth, according to Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque, Jr. during his regular press briefing.
“Sang-ayon po sa memorandum ng ating President na kaka-issue lang ngayon lang po, kinakailangan po bumuo ng task force na kabibilangan po ng Ombudsman, ng Commission on Audit, ng Civil Service Commission, ng Office of the Executive Secretary, kasama na po si Usec [Jesus Melchor] Quitain (Officer-in-charge, Office of the Special Assistant to the President) at iba pang ahensya pa gaya ng PACC (Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission),” said Secretary Roque.
The Task Force, which was earlier suggested by Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, is given the authority to investigate and propose legal actions, audit PhilHealth finances, and conduct lifestyle checks among PhilHealth officials and employees. The task force will also have the power to recommend to the President the imposition of preventive suspension of any PhilHealth official to ensure the unhampered conduct of the investigation.
“Dati-rati po paulit-ulit nag-iimbestiga ang Kamara at ang Senado, wala pong nangyayari kasi wala pong kapangyarihan ng preventive suspension. Ngayon po ang imbesitigasyon na ito kasama na po ang preventive suspension,” noted Secretary Roque.
In the same press briefing, the Presidential Spokesperson also discussed the decline in the country’s economic growth and the measures being done by the government to address this amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “Tulad po ng inaasahan, bumagsak po ang ating ekonomiya. GDP growth drops by 16.5 percent during the second quarter of 2020. Alam naman po natin na ito po’y resulta dahil dun sa ECQ at MECQ kung saan nagsara po ang buong bansa at maraming negosyo, at nalimitahan pati na rin po ang galaw ng mga tao,” said Roque.
The Palace official noted that the Philippines is not the only country experiencing economic decline, mentioning Indonesia, Thailand, China, Malaysia, and Singapore in Asia and the United States, France, Spain, Italy, and Mexico that all experienced economic contraction in the first semester of the year, or is expected to experience economic contraction.
Having said that, Roque mentioned some of the proposed measures in the government’s economic recovery plan including the passage of the Bayanihan 2 or Bayanihan to Recover As One Act and the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises or CREATE Act, as well as the resumption of Build, Build, Build projects.
“Kasama na rin po sa ating gagawin, sa ating stratehiya, ang recalibrated budget para sa susunod na taon. Ito po ay naka-angkla sa Administration’s key priorities para po tayo’y maka-recover sa COVID-19,” Roque said. According to the Palace official, a big allocation of the budget will go to the social services sector, including the implementation of the Universal Health Care Act and for the purchase of vaccines against COVID-19.
National Economic and Development Authority Acting Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua, a resource person in the said press briefing, discussed the main provisions in the Bayanihan 2, which as of date has been approved on second reading in the House of Representatives and approved on third reading in the Senate.
Sec Chua said that both versions of the legislation provide for the allocation of fiscal resources to support the healthcare system; enhance testing, tracing, isolation, and treatment; support public transport; support critically affected sectors and workers in ECQ areas; and provide capital infusion to government financial institutions to allow them to lend more to small businesses, as well as help smaller banks.
Chua also underscored that the House of Representatives version include two important provisions, which are the stimulus bills GUIDE (Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery)/ARISE (Accelerated Recovery and Investment Stimulus for the Economy of the Philippines), and FIST (Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer). Both GUIDE and ARISE will provide equity support to strategically distressed firms, while FIST will allow banks to dispose of bad loans and assets so that they can serve more businesses.
Also in the same press briefing, Governor Jonvic Remulla said that the provincial government of Cavite follows what the national government directs with regard to policies on COVID-19. Gov. Remulla said that the provincial government is currently concentrating on its plans for education for school year 2020-2021, with the launch of its free wi-fi program for all public school students in the province that will provide for unlimited access to educational apps. ### OPS-PCOO