Press Release
July 14, 2011

ANC's Rundown with Tony Velasquez and Jing Castaneda, 8:00 pm, July 13, 2011

Q: Why would you think it would be better for a private entity to take over PCSO's functions?

We just have to open our minds with reforms. The state agency never indulges in the operation of the casino or in lotto. The state agency always would just supervise or regulate to make sure the interest of the public is protected. If you run gambling outfits and at the same time regulate, there's a conflict of interest. All of these assertions of anomalies arise from the fact that inevitably when you run a casino or lotto operation, you make a lot of discretion and discretion precisely is where corruption would flourish. In order that we can avoid all of these, let us bid out the lotto and casinos to the private sector. Just get a franchise fee for what really is due to government after the bidding and leave the operations to the private sector so that they can spend so much on in intelligence use and advertising. We don't care as long we get a specific amount, not share of revenues. Number three, we now eliminate political patronage. During the hearing we saw how political patronage played in the grant of medical benefits. Those who are favored by the administration, especially the past administration, would be getting medical benefits for their own constituency as if the whole province was sick. In one province, there are more ambulances than municipalities. Let us have a definite franchise fee for gambling operations, put it all in a universal coverage of PhilHealth. You improve the public hospitals so that everybody benefits from these operations of gambling... so the opportunity for patronage will be eliminated.

Q: But you're mentioning that it goes to a universal fund?

No, universal coverage of PhilHealth, meaning everybody gets covered. The problem right now is that the coverage of PhilHealth can only extend to so many of our population because the funds are not enough. There is only P100 billion in the funds of PhilHealth and two months operation is already P60 million so you just not have enough funds to cover everybody. That is why in many local governments they subscribed to PhilHealth in order to cover poor people in the provinces. If we have a universal coverage of PhilHealth just like in the US they have Medicare... will take care of everybody. You go in the hospital and you don't have to pay anything because they have universal insurance through their Medicare. We need a universal insurance through our PhilHealth. Our problem is finances. Since PCSO is engaged in medical assistance, let the medical assistance be through a PhilHealth program so that everybody benefits.

Q: Limited na ang use ng funds so you cannot use it for blood money etc.

Yes. By the way, the present charter of PCSO says funds should be used only for medical purposes. As I was saying, you get a definite amount out of the franchise fee, put it in the universal coverage of PhilHealth. Some people kept on saying 'what happens to the medical benefits for the poor?' Precisely we put it in PhilHealth so that all the poor will benefit, not only the poor...

Q: Wala na yung pag may operasyon at kulang ang pera, may limit din yung coverage sir diba?

Precisely you have limited the coverage because of lack of funds.

Q: But sir if an operation would cost P1 million? I'm sure the coverage is not P1 million.

Why are you sure that P1 million cannot be covered?

Q: ...given sufficient funds.

That's correct.

The medical aspect would depend on kung sino ang kakilala mo sa PCSO, kung sino ang kakilala mong pulitiko. Yan naman po ang dapat nating iwasan. Yes, the first portion of income generation maybe we can have a better control of that. But the other aspect of the problem is political patronage so we do not want to play God. We do not want board members or the general manager of PCSO to play God—'ito ang dapat bigyan, ito ang bigyan natin, ito opposition wag nating bigyan yan.' Inevitably subjective judgment comes even in the grant of benefits. We are all human beings. Precisely when we have a universal coverage, then just like in any other jurisdictions, almost in all jurisdictions in Europe, if you are a member of their Social Security System or their health system, all free in the hospital. That's precisely where we are lacking. Then the grant of benefits is neutral regardless of what your political color is.

Q: Pero sir that will take time?

Yes that will take time. I'm not saying that we will do it tomorrow.

Q: But in the mean time, what safety nets, changes can we put into place?

I'm sure that the present leadership is leading the pack. For example they have poverty mapping. It is good. They just have to determine where the poor are located. Unfortunately in our case we have 4.5 million families living below the poverty line. Lahat ito nangangailangan ng tulong medical. No matter what we say, it is extremely difficult to do this on an ad hoc basis. Overtime we should start looking at this, we should start studying this and at the end of the day we should start to privatize the lotto operations of PCSO and use the funds that we generate out of bidding the lotto operations into universal coverage of PhilHealth.

Q: On determination of beneficiaries.

You don't determine the beneficiaries anymore because it's for everyone.

Q: Will it be the poor subsidizing the rich?

I don't think so. That's an unusual theory. I've never heard of that.

Q: Baka it might be used by politicians again.

Precisely because there is no universal coverage. That is why LGUs would try to enroll the poor constituents so that they can avail of hospital benefits. We are trying to source funds. Let me tell you that the DoH in the forthcoming budget would want an additional P50 billion. Why? Because they want to have the poor access to as many hospitals as possible. As chairman of the finance committee, where do we get this P50 billion? These are things we would like to happen in this country: have a better medical care but we need funds. Here it is very clear that we could better utilize the funds of PCSO. I am not saying that we should do this tomorrow. I am saying that we should start talking about this.

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