MANILA — Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said he is open to conducting a Senate investigation into the alleged anomalies in the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
Go said the interest of the Filipino people should be put above everything else and those who committed corruption should be held accountable.
“Kung ano po ’yung interes ng tao, interes ng Pilipino, ’yun po ang mangunguna. Managot ang dapat managot (The interest of the Filipino people is paramount. Those liable should be held accountable),” he told reporters in an interview at the Senate on Monday.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered the suspension of PCSO gaming operations on Friday night, July 26, due to “massive corruption,” while Senator Panfilo Lacson has been claiming in interviews that Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III has “conflict of interest” in some PhilHealth transactions. Lacson also delivered a privilege speech on the matter in the Senate Monday afternoon.
Go remained firm as he said he is willing to set aside friendships, as what the President always advises him to do. “Managot ang dapat managot kahit na magkasama tayo sa gobyerno at magkaibigan tayo. Kung ano lang po ang tama. ’Yan po ang pinagbibilin parati sa akin ni Pangulo noon (Those liable should be held accountable. Even if we are colleagues in government. Do what is right. That is what the President always tells me.) Do what is right.”
Go emphasized, however, that for now, he has no reasons to pre-judge Health Secretary Duque.
“As chairman ng Committee on Health, I’m willing to investigate kung talagang mayroong katotohanan na mayroong conflict of interest, subalit I still trust Secretary Duque, until it’s proven sufficiently na mayroon talagang ebidensiya against him (I’m willing to investigate whether there’s truth that there’s conflict of interest but I still trust Secretary Duque until it’s proven sufficiently that there are pieces of evidence against him).”
Meanwhile, Go also assured the public that the operation of, and the services offered by Malasakit Centers are not affected by the closure of PCSO gaming outlets.
The Senator gave an assurance that the closure of lotto, small-town lottery (STL), and other gaming outlets of PCSO will not affect the budget and services of Malasakit Centers, a one-stop shop established in 38 government hospitals all over the country where patients can seek financial assistance from various government agencies.
Go said enough funds have been allotted or released for the services offered by Malasakit Centers. “Sa ngayon budgeted naman po ’yungoperations ng pagpapagamot for this year (Operations for medical expenses are budgeted this year).”
He added that other agencies are involved. “Marami naman pong tumutulong sa Malasakit Center tulad ng PhilHealth, DOH, at DSWD. Sa ngayon po ay hindi pa po siya apektado. Tuloy-tuloy po ang tulong ng mga Malasakit Center all over the country (Philhealth, DOH, and DSWD help in Malasakit Centers. For now, it is not affected. Malasakit Center services are ongoing all over the country).”
He said the current collections of PCSO will be used next year. “Naka-budget na po ’yung pondo ng PCSO for this year. ’Yung mga kinokolekta for this year, ito po ’yung bina-budget po for the next year (For this year, PCSO’s budget is funded. Those collected for this year, that’s for next year’s budget),” he said.
The Senator also said that while gaming outlets have been closed, PCSO remains open for medical financial assistance. “Bukas naman po. Wala naman pong nagsasara at hindi po magsasara ang PCSO (para) sa mga tulong medikal (PCSO’s medical assistance is always open).”
Go shared that Duterte was prompted to order the suspension of gaming activities upon receiving reports of corruption from newly appointed PCSO General Manager Royina Garma.
“She reported na kailangan niya po ng tulong ng Pangulo dahil talagang hirap siya na sugpuin ’yung korapsyon sa PCSO at napakalakinglosses na po ang nangyayari in the past few months sa operations of some games authorized by PCSO (She said she needed the help of the president because she was having a difficult time ridding corruption at PCSO and that huge losses have been reported in the past few months in the operations of some games authorized by PCSO),” he said.
Go added that he cannot say for sure when the normal operations of PCSO will resume, and the President wants the problem to be solved first.
“Ang sabi ng Pangulo, mayroon namang possibility na babalik po ang operations, basta wala lang pong graft and corruption at mababalik sa gobyerno what is due to the government and what is due to the Filipino people (The President said there is a possibility that operations will continue, as long as there is no graft and corruption and that the government and the Filipino people will get what is due them),” he said.
The Senator added the President encouraged him to look into corruption issues, not only with PCSO or DOH but with other government agencies.
“Sabi niya, kung kailangan mong imbestigahan at kailangan mong silipin at may makita kang korapsyon sa kahit saang government agencies, lahat silipin mo. Magsalita ka sa Senado. Kahit na kasama natin sa gobyerno noon, magsalita ka (He said you need to investigate and look into corruption issues in any government agency. Speak at the Senate, even if the one involved is a fellow government worker),” he said. (PR)