Scrambling to save face from the uproar caused by the Philhealth premium hike which Duterte himself signed and approved, Malacañang and Health Secretary Duque directed its temporary suspension. This initial gain is attributable to the strong opposition raised by Filipino migrant communities far and wide. One of the petitions raised by OFWs calling for the removal of the mandatory premium hike has already garnered more than 400 Thousand signatories. In addition, a joint position statement launched by Migrante International is also gaining ground, signed by 180 Filipino migrant organizations from different parts of the world.
One thing is clear though from Spokesperson Harry Roque’s announcement – suspension will not suffice for long. The Duterte regime is merely dousing cold water to the Philhealth issue in its attempt to sedate the loud outrage of Filipino migrants against this unjust and extortionate law. OFWs are not asking for a mere suspension. They want it completely scrapped.
Migrante International likewise backs the strong opposition of OFWs against Senator Bong Go’s call for a ‘palugit’ or extension of the pre-IRR status quo. Even without the COVID-19 pandemic and recession, the premium hike will still be rejected by Filipino migrants. Senator Bong Go is the current chair of the Senate Committee on Health so we are not surprised why he is still vouching for Duterte’s disgraceful UHC Law. As seen on his Facebook page, OFWs are refuting his claim that the benefits under Duterte’s mandatory Philhealth exaction outweigh premium payments since there are no Philhealth accredited hospitals abroad. Furthermore, Filipinos have never lost sight of the corruption scandals that have been plaguing Philhealth year in year out.
President Duterte better avail himself of the resumption of Congressional session today by ordering for a complete repeal of the mandatory Philhealth exaction from the Universal Healthcare Law. Duterte can’t just simply wash his hands clean from responsibility when he even certified UHC as urgent back in 2018 and the tiered premium hike is clearly stipulated in Chapter 3 – Section 10 of Republic Act No. 11223. Until we see efforts to amend the Universal Healthcare Law, Duterte’s recommendation to make the payment for OFWs voluntary, still is yet to be seen. His recommendation also leaves out overseas Filipinos who are dual citizens when both overseas Filipinos and migrant workers will be severely affected by the mandatory premium increase.
In support of Filipino migrants, Migrante International will continue to register its protest against President Duterte’s Philhealth premium hike and other unscrupulous state exactions. OFWs deserve to get steady and efficient relief at this time of crisis. The Duterte regime better stop treating Filipino migrants as milking cows to subsidize big private profit in a country dominated by profit-oriented healthcare facilities.