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Gerry Baldo

Lawmakers from the Eastern Visayas yesterday appealed to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to include all their constituents in the coverage of the state insurance firm.

In a joint letter-request initiated by Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, who chairs the House committee on banks and financial intermediaries, the lawmakers urged PhilHealth to cover their constituents who have been suffering from calamaties of late.
Those who supported the move were Reps. Yedda Romualdez (1st District, Leyte), Edgar Mary Sarmiento (1st District, Western Samar), Mila Tan (2nd District, Western Samar), Edwin Ong (2nd District, Northern Samar), Raul Daza (1st District, Northern Samar), Rogelio Espina (Lone District, Biliran), Roger “Oguing” Mercado (Lone District, Southern Leyte), Henry Ong (2nd District, Leyte), Vicente “Ching” Veloso (3rd District, Leyte), Lucy Torres (4th District, Leyte), Jose Carlos Cari (5th District, Leyte), Victoria Noel (party-list, An Waray) and Harlin Abayon III (party-list, AANGAT Tayo!).
“Because of the spate of storms, we are making this appeal initiated by Evardone for our constituents,” said Romualdez, a registered nurse and a vice chairman of the House committee on government enterprises and privatization.
Evardone lamented that tropical depressions “Urduja” and “Vinta” in December 2017 and typhoon “Agaton” in January this year batted Eastern Visayas.
“Eastern Visayas is still recovering from the adverse impact of typhoons ‘Yolanda’ (2013) and ‘Ruby’ (2014). Unfortunately, we again experienced heavy rains and severe flooding all across the region due to typhoons,” the lawmakers stated in their joint letter to the Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque, who is also the PhilHealth chairman.
After Yolanda in 2013, PhilHealth lifted the payment of premiums and granted all typhoon victims in the region free coverage under its “All Can Avail” program, which ended December 2016.
This developed as Senior Citizen party-list Rep. Milagros Aquino-Magsaysay urged the DoH to look into the case of Eduardo Borja, a 74-year-old, who sought her assistance for alleged violation of Republic Act (RA) 9994, otherwise known as the Expanded Senior Citizens’ Act of 2010. Aquino-Magsaysay said Borja was purportedly charged more than P200,000 for an overnight stay for suture at St. Patrick’s Hospital and Medical Center in Batangas City on August 25, 2016 without allegedly deducting the 20 percent senior citizen discount and 12 percent value-added tax (VAT).
She stressed that senior citizens must fully enjoy, not be deprived of, the statutory privileges given by the State in the twilight years of their lives.
Aquino-Magsaysay emphasized that under RA 9994, senior citizens were entitled to 20 percent discounts and exemption from 12 percent value added tax for medical services and doctors’ fees.
According to her, the hospital allegedly billed Borja P201,502 which includes P30,068 for hospital charges and P171,434 for professional fees.
She said the family of Borja paid P136,961.00 after benefits from PhilHealth have been deducted.
But Aquino-Magsaysay said Borja still found the bill was purportedly “unreasonable and exorbitant” for a one-day ward confinement, claiming that the hospital allegedly failed to extend both the 12 percent VAT exemption and the 20 percent senior citizen discount as mandated by the law.

Leaders of the Anak Mindanao partylist yesterday urged their colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass a bill that would stop discrimination for Muslim women on the heels of the World Hijab Day (WHD), an annual event encouraging Muslim and non-Muslim women to wear the “hijab” and experience the life of a hijabis woman, at least, for a day. The first wide-scale observance of WHD was in 2013.
According to AMIN Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan and former AMIN Rep. Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman the use if the “hijab” is a way of life for Muslim women.
“There are those who think that these women are being forced, oppressed and worst, they are being labeled as ‘terrorists,’” said former Rep.Turabin-Hataman.
According to Sancopan, Filipinos should understand that we have a varied culture.
“It is our aim to raise awareness and to put a stop to all sorts of discrimination, including discrimination against Muslim women. We hope to foster deeper respect and understanding among and between Filipinos of varying cultures and faith toward national unity and peace,” Sangcopan added.
In House Bill 968, which was filed by Turabin-Hataman, hijab is defined as “a veil that covers the head and chest, which is particularly worn by a Muslim female beyond the age of puberty in the presence of adult males outside of their immediate family.”
Sangcopan vowed to work for the passage of the bill in her term.
“Wearing the Hijab is something personal. It is a way of self-discipline, you compose yourself, you tell yourself to be good, to be kind, to be the best person you can, because that is what your hijab represents contrary to what the majority of the people thinks, wearing hijab comes with integrity,” the lady solon said.
AMIN continues to lobby the passage of the bill and will continue to support activities like the World’s Hijab Day which will help raise awareness and promote better understanding of the plight of the Hijabi women who are being victims of discrimination and or hate crimes simply because they wear Hijab.
Turabin-Hataman said that in a multicultural country like ours, Muslim minorities feel the insecurity because of the discrimination that they personally experience.
She said that legislation is a step toward making all sectors in the country, particularly the employment and education sectors, to promote respect for diversity and religious beliefs. 

Solon insists there’s something fishy in frigate deal

Friday, 02 February 2018 00:00 Published in Metro

A lawmaker from the Magdalo partylist yesterday raised a howl anew over the questionable frigate deal which was bagged by Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) of South Korea.

According to Rep. Gary Alejano, HHI has been banned in South Korea in connection with a bribery scandal.
“There is even more reason now to conduct an investigation on the frigate deal,” Alejano said. He added HHI was banned to participate in state-led bids as ruled by South Korea’s Supreme Court.
Alejano, a former Marine officer, said HHI, the winning bidder in the Frigate Acquisition Project of the Philippine Navy, was involved in a bribery scandal in 2013. The executives of HHI were found guilty of bribing an official of Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co. in exchange for becoming a supplier of reactors to be exported to the UAE.
HHI sought to nullify the restriction but lost in the 2015 trial. On Dec. 22, 2017, Korea’s Supreme Court made the final decision imposing a 2-year ban on HHI to participate in state-led bids which will last until the end of 2019. Since the announcement, HHI has been listed as an “improper” business entity.
“HHI’s history of engaging in corrupt activities should further prompt an investigation on the FAP. Its involvement in bribery puts question on the ethics of the company. If a company has a record of engaging in such practices, it is but natural to doubt its later actions,” Alejano said.
Alejano noted that in the case of FAP, HHI has already been observed of unscrupulous actions. In his privilege speech delivered in the House plenary last January 15, Alejano said HHI had employed the “bait and switch” strategy.
“Contractor baits the buyer/client by offering superior systems or products and once he bags the contract he will find means to go around and eventually choose the lesser/inferior and thus cheaper systems or products to maximize profits,” he explained. This has been the main issue in the “maker’s list,” signed only by HHI officials, which contained disadvantageous provisions for the Philippine Navy.
Following the recent sanction on HHI, Alejano emphasized the gravity of the matter.
“It is corruption in the form of bribery that HHI was found guilty of. It is its own government which tagged HHI as an improper business entity. The integrity of FAP—wherein HHI is the main contractor —will consequently be disputed,” he stressed.
“We cannot dispel the possibility of the same having transpired in the frigate procurement. Lack of proper investigation would mean those possibly involved will not be held liable,” he added.
The FAP is being hounded by the same controversy with one of its subcontractors, Hanwha Systems. The controversy points toward Bong Go’s intervention in the combat management system selection in order to favor Hanwha’s. Just three days after the FAP anomaly was first released to the public, Malacanang said it had already conducted an investigation and cleared Go.
Alejano, meanwhile, filed House Resolution No. 1590 last January 16 to conduct an inquiry into the frigate project and its compliance with the procurement laws. He also filed House Resolution No. 1591 for a review of the Revised AFP Modernization Act.


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