Gordon committee to probe corruption in DOH, PCSO

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate blue ribbon committee will investigate allegations of corruption in the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), its chairman said on Tuesday, July 30.

Senator Richard Gordon told reporters in an interview that the investigation will be done "probably next week" or the first week of August, as soon as relevant information had been gathered.

Gordon made the statement when he was asked about his reaction to the privilege speech of Senator Panfilo Lacson on Monday, July 29, where he raised conflict of interest  issues against Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

Lacson had also alleged that the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) continued to pay WellMed Dialysis Center  even after its accreditation had been suspended because of its involvement in a scam.

"'Yung sa Philhealth, totoo bang may ospital diyan na dinadagdagan palagi? That to me is more important. Kasi ninanakawan mo 'yung taong mahirap (For Philhealth, is it true that Philhealth overpaid hospitals? That to me is more important. Because you are stealing from poor people)," Gordon told reporters.

Gordon said that the alleged business dealings of Duque's family members with the government, as cited by Lacson in his Monday speech, would also be investigated.

"We will look at it from the anti-graft angle," the senator said in Filipino.

Gordon said that while Duque would be "off the hook" if he had really divested from his family's business, the Senate panel would also look into whether Duque meddled in the awarding of contracts to favor a relative.

PCSO corruption

Gordon said the investigation into PCSO would be done after the DOH probe.

"Why did the President stop them (PCSO)? Is there because there's really more money is going to the illegal rather than the legal?" Gordon said, referring to President Rodrigo Duterte's closure order on PCSO game operations.

He noted that many "Filipinos depend" on the PCSO to pay for their hospital bills or medicines.

On Friday, July 27, Duterte ordered the closure of all gaming schemes operated, licensed, and franchised by the PCSO "due to massive corruption." He only issued a verbal order, made in a televised announcement, which concerned Cabinet officials and the police said was enough to enforce the order.

The President issued the order months after he sacked PCSO general manager Alexander Balutan in March over "serious allegations of corruption." Balutan was replaced  by Cebu City Police Director Royina Garma on June 24. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.