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`Covid is the enemy’

“Use Leche Plan in a sentence: Leche hanggang ngayon wala ka pa ring Plan.”

I saw that post in Facebook and though corny, it sums up how the national government, and the Department of Health in particular, is addressing this pandemic.

Whoever watched the recent public ranting of the president in reaction to the open letter from various medical societies nationwide can see clearly that he was either misinformed by his minions or his misplaced anger is simply a ploy to divert attention from the massing-up of support for the medical frontliners.

It was surprising how he taunted the medical community to stage a revolution against his administration and worse, how nobody in that cabinet dared to correct his interpretation of the public appeal from bone-weary frontliners.

I have a sister and a niece who are medical doctors in a government hospital here. Two other nieces work as nurses in the same hospital, while another is a medical technologist in a private hospital.

Believe me, like all medical frontliners they go to work because they have an oath to save lives. But the fear is real and they face that each day they report for duty. To belittle their fears, especially with the fact that around 5,000 of them have been infected, was uncalled for. Recently, the regional DOH said that we have 92 medical practitioners in Western Visayas that are positive.

Duque should have taken the cudgel for the medical community but unfortunately, that is wishful thinking as he even refuses to resign despite calls from various sectors.

The doctors, in response to the president’s remarks said they are not the enemy. We have one common enemy here and it is COVID-19. Perhaps, what irks the president most is the fact that this war cannot be waged using his usual militaristic solution.

He should admit by now that putting all those generals at the forefront of this pandemic was a wrong move. There is one medical practitioner in the cabinet, sadly though, he has shown his ineptness even before the pandemic struck.

As if that is not enough mess, we were shocked yesterday to hear from PhilHealth that it could collapse in a couple of years without additional subsidy from government.

In the Senate hearing, data protection officer Nerissa Santiago said that due to decreasing collections from members and increasing payout to hospitals due to COVID cases, by next year, it will be on deficit if no vaccine is discovered.
That is believable because at the onset of the pandemic and before PhilHealth was able to draft a maximum payout for COVID cases, it was shelling out millions for one patient alone.

However, what is troubling is the discovery of continuing corruption in the agency which just amplifies the fact that despite the president’s vow to stem corruption, it thrives under his administration, committed by his own appointees.

PhilHealth president, Ret. Brig. Gen. Ricardo Morales said that last year alone, the health insurance agency lost about P10.2 billion from alleged fraudulent transactions. This loss could balloon to P18 billion by next year if not addressed properly, thus the need for an integrated and harmonized information management system pegged at P2.1 billion.

Thankfully, COA was able to stop the implementation after noticing a huge discrepancy in the proposed cost versus actual costs.
Sen. Ping Lacson called the irregularities as “blatant and brazen”, after COA officer Alejandro Cabading testified that there were multiple items in the proposal that were overpriced and some were four times higher than the amount for IT equipment approved by the DICT.

Blatant is an understatement. Just imagine a proposal to purchase a laptop worth P115.32 million and another one costing P4.11 million. What kind of laptop is that? That is how brazen these appointees have become because it is obvious that under this administration (and this has happened many times) the bolder they get in stealing from the people’s coffers, they will eventually be asked to step down with just a slap on the wrist.

Another questionable item is the Adobe Master Collection software which under DICT will cost around P168,000 but under PhilHealth’s proposal is pegged at P21 million. While an identity management software that costs P20 million was suddenly listed down at P42 million. Sheer greed!

Come to think of it, here you have a national government trumpeting their actions in going after barangay officials that allegedly duped SAP beneficiaries of a few thousand and threatening them with charges and incarceration, yet, could not boot out an appointee that has shamelessly crafted this proposal. If not for COA flagging it down, I am sure it will just be another corruption case that will be attributed to fraudulent transactions they had no knowledge about.

Morales denied any irregularity saying it needs to be explained further because IT is “a very complicated system.” Unfortunately for them, the system of corruption they used was over-simplified. They were shameless and simply added a couple of zeros to the actual price and hope they wouldn’t get caught.

Ah…when will this end!*

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May 2023

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