Senators: No need for emergency powers

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    BY RAYMOND AFRICA and JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR

    ADMINISTRATION and opposition senators yesterday shot down a move of the House of Representatives to grant President Duterte emergency powers to effect reforms at the corruption-ridden Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

    Malacañang, meanwhile, said President Duterte has enough powers and authority to implement changes at PhilHealth, including overhauling the agency to make it more efficient and corruption-free.

    Presidential spokesman Harry Roque thanked the House but said Malacañang would have to study if the President needs emergency powers. As of now, he said, the President has enough powers.

    Rep. Michael Defensor, chairman of the House committee on public accounts which is conducting a probe into the alleged irregularities at PhilHealth, on Wednesday said the House is inclined give the President emergency powers to address the rampant corruption in the government health insurance agency,

    Defensor said the recommendations would form part of the committee report on PhilHealth.
    Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the President has enough powers to revamp the agency.

    “Anything that they (House members) would want the President to do, he can do now, even without the emergency powers,” Sotto III told CNN Philippines.

    Still, he said, the Senate would look into what kind of emergency powers the House wants to give the President.

    “Kung meron tayong makikita na hindi niya kayang gawin ngayon in order to … revamp, reorganize or whatever he can do sa PhilHealth, then yes, by all means, let’s give it to him. Pero kung nandoon naman sa mga powers niya, bakit pa? (If there are still things which the President cannot do in order to, let’s say revamp, reorganize or whatever he can do in PhilHealth, they yes, by all means let’s give it to him. But if the powers are already there, then why should we give him emergency powers?).

    Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the President has been given emergency powers under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act or Bayanihan 1 but the fight against COVID-19 was a failure as infections continue to rise.

    With this, Pangilinan offered a simple solution to address the PhilHealth anomalies, and that is by sacking Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and filing charges against PhilHealth officials involved in irregularities.

    “Yan ang solusyon, hindi emergency powers (That’s the solution, not the emergency powers),” Pangilinan added.

    Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon shared the same sentiment.

    “The President has vast powers under the Constitution and existing laws to reorganize and solve corruption in PhilHealth. He appoints the members of the board. He can file administrative and criminal cases against erring and corrupt officials. He can order the suspension or transfer of personnel in the entire executive,” Drilon said.

    Drilon cited the law that he authored, the GOCC Governance Act or Republic Act 10149, which grants vast powers to the President, through the Governance Council for GOCCs (GCG), to reform and reorganize GOCCs.

    “Congress has already delegated to the President, by virtue of RA 10149, the power to reorganize PhilHealth,” Drilon said.

    Drilon explained that under RA 10149, the reorganization, merger or streamlining of government-owned and-controlled corporations (GOCC), such as PhilHealth, can be implemented. In fact, he added, the President can abolish or privatize GOCCs without going to Congress.