Duterte to jumpstart PhilHealth revamp

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 29) — President Rodrigo Duterte has set a target to begin the overhaul of embattled state insurance agency PhilHealth, which is ridden with fraud and corruption allegations.

He said he will attempt to reorganize the agency by deeming all its personnel resigned.

"I will try to begin tomorrow shaking the tree sa PhilHealth. Balak ko mag-reorganize and impose upon them a single line of authority," he said in his address to the nation on Monday. "Hindi na puwede na itong mga tao na ito, they are already entrenched (sic) na. Wala, walang mangyari. Talagang either I’m going to revamp, consider everybody resigned there."

[Translation: I will try to shake the tree in PhilHealth tomorrow. I plan to reorganize and impose a single line of authority. The people employed there will not do, they are considered retrenched. I will revamp it, consider everybody resigned.]

Duterte bared that this is only the first step in his plans to fix the agency. He said he will push through with his earlier suggestion to abolish PhilHealth. He said the insurance firm's privatization is no longer an option due to insufficient government funds, adding the next action should be a "surgical move" since there are no other remedies to fix it.

"I am going to propose to Congress to abolish... Kung i-privatize mo naman, susmaryosep, walang pera. Huwag mo sabihin ng mga kapitalista sa insurance: Kami ang magbayad? Wala kayong pondo," he said.

[Translation: I am going to propose to the Congress to abolish it. There is no money if it will be privatized. The insurance capitalists will say: ‘So we’re going to pay? But you don’t have funds.']

PhilHealth was recently subjected to a rigorous investigation for corruption, prompting senators to recommend the filing of graft charges against its top officials, including Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and former chief Ricardo Morales for anomalies such as the "shady" implementation of cash advances or the interim reimbursement mechanism.

Duterte previously approved the recommendation of the Department of Justice-led (DOJ) investigating task force to file criminal and administrative complaints against Morales and five other officials. However, the task force did not include Duque in its initial list of officials recommended to face complaints.