THE SENATE Committee of the Whole will proceed with its investigation of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) on Tuesday even as the chamber put the Senate building on a two-week lockdown.
“Hearings will not be covered by our enhanced community quarantine,” Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III told reporters on Monday.
Senators will also hold bicameral meetings during the strict lockdown, he said.
The two-week lockdown was in support of health workers who urged the government at the weekend to put back Manila and nearby cities and provinces under a modified enhanced community quarantine amid a surge in coronavirus infections.
Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo M. Lacson reiterated that Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III, who is the PhilHealth chairman, is unfit to lead the agency’s fight against the pandemic.
“It is not only me who disagrees with the President for not firing Secretary Duque,” the lawmaker said in a statement. “There were 14 senators who had earlier asked him to resign. I don’t think that number has changed.”
The Senate will investigate PhilHealth and the Health department for alleged corruption in their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte also ordered Undersecretary Melchor Quitain of the Office of the Special Assistant to the President to investigate PhilHealth after an anti-fraud legal officer at PhilHealth quit due to alleged corruption at the agency.
Mr. Lacson earlier said the inquiry would be one of the Senate’s top agenda after sessions resumed last week.
Senator Franklin M. Drilon also sought to investigate PhilHealth because P221 billion worth of public funds — PhilHealth’s total asset as of April — was on the line, he said.
This is not the first time PhilHealth will be probed by the Senate. The chamber had investigated the agency over “ghost dialysis” and the more recent overpriced COVID-19 test kits.
Among those who pushed the probe were Mr. Sotto and Senators Aquilino L. Pimentel III, Christopher Lawrence T. Go, Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva, Juan Edgardo M. Angara and Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel.
Senator Francis N. Pangilinan had said PhilHealth officials who were implicated should be fired immediately and charged for plunder.
PhilHealth has said it had “nothing to hide” and was ready to face the probe. — Charmaine A. Tadalan