‘We wonder how Lacson and Villanueva felt about this, but for Sen. Grace Poe, it was like old wounds that have already healed being reopened, tormenting her again.’
IT would have been just a small footnote in the ongoing investigative hearings of the Senate about the irregularities in PhilHealth, were it not for the fact that the daughter-senator was terribly pained by this revelation which now forms part of recent history.
And also because Fernando “Ronnie” Poe Jr., the eternal and only King of Philippine Movies, was perhaps celebrating in heaven his 81st birth anniversary on Thursday, August 20.
During the third Senate hearing on the anomalies in the state health insurance firm on Tuesday, PhilHealth regional vice president Dennis Adre talked about “Plan 5 Million.” Adre claimed that PhilHealth started incurring financial losses after it launched in 2004 the plan wherein PhilHealth cards were distributed to five million indigent families nationwide under the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s “Greater Medicare Access” Program. The initiative was implemented by Francisco Duque III who was secretary of health at that time, and thus also chairman of PhilHealth.
On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with that program, but Adre said it was launched when Malacañang found out that Fernando Poe Jr. was leading President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo by five million voters in all surveys, and the Palace had to do something if it wanted to stay in power.
Adre explained that the program was launched by Secretary Duque ahead of the 2004 presidential elections, when Macapagal-Arroyo, Poe, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, and now Rep. Eddie Villanueva contested the presidency. Lacson reportedly said that the free health cards were distributed in selected places where FPJ was strong.
“Noon pong may survey na the late FPJ ay nangunguna ng five million votes sa survey, kaya po five million din ang cards na ipinamigay ng PhilHealth na libre. (There was a survey which showed that the late Fernando Poe Jr. was leading by five million votes, that’s why PhilHealth decided to distribute five million free cards),” Adre said.
We wonder how Lacson and Villanueva felt about this, but for Senator Grace Poe, it was like old wounds that have already healed being reopened, tormenting her again. All three politicians are no stranger to knowing all the dirty tricks of the trade, from rigged surveys to fake news to election cheating, but explosive items like this still boggles the mind.
Fernando Poe Jr. died of stroke in December 2004, while his election protest against President Arroyo for supposed election fraud was pending before the Supreme Court. The High Court dismissed the case in March, 2005.
This will lead one to ask — what else? What other underhanded tactics would a sitting President do to undermine his or her political opponents, considering the vast power and influence the Chief Executive wields?
“I didn’t really expect it to come out although I know that Duque was involved,” Senator Poe can only say with grace, adding it is “good to remember those things” to prevent the repeat of the anomalies.
To FPJ, wherever he is now, we can only say, “Happy Birthday, Ronnie.”