Establishing reliable digital platforms

The recent hacking of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) website highlights the need to bolster the government’s cybersecurity defenses to adapt and survive in the digital age.

As chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and member of the Committees on Public Information, and Science and Technology, I am reiterating my call to PhilHealth and other government agencies to consider this a wake-up call. We are living in a digital age where vast amounts of information are made available online. This reality should make us more vigilant of the urgent need to secure our data and, in the case of PhilHealth, its members’ sensitive information.

For PhilHealth, the attack not only compromised the data of its members but also led to an interruption of service—every second counts, especially for an agency that deals with the marginalized sector of society. Poor Filipinos who use PhilHealth’s services should be given quality and efficient service, including the protection of these digital platforms created for them.

While we should seek accountability for those responsible for the cyberattack, the more urgent task is to ensure that the compromised agencies take immediate measures to secure their portals and databases. But we should not stop there. We must also implement preventive measures to ensure that similar incidents do not happen again.

This is primarily why I proposed Senate Bill No.194, also known as the E-Governance bill. Once approved, the measure will institutionalize a framework for properly transitioning applicable government services to E-governance.

If enacted, this will mandate the government to establish an integrated, interconnected, and interoperable information and resource-sharing and communications network spanning the entirety of the national and local government, an internal records management information system, an information database, and digital portals for the delivery of public services.

While I am concerned with the digital world, I am too, with how Filipinos live amid various challenges in their everyday reality. That is why I continue to go around the country to bring the government closer to the people.

On 9 October, we went to Sultan Kudarat and attended the groundbreaking of the Esperanza Super Health Center, along with Mayor Charles Ploteña. We also inspected the road concreting project that we earlier advocated for to be funded. We are also thankful to the entire province led by Governor Datu Pax Ali Mangudadatu for declaring me an “adopted son” of the province.

We then proceeded to Makilala, North Cotabato, to witness the opening of the new public market and the turnover of a new municipal hall, which we also supported in the past years. Along with Governor Lala Taliño-Mendoza, Mayor Armando Quibod, and other officials, we assisted 481 impoverished residents. We also visited the 39th Infantry Battalion 10ID and distributed 485 pales of groceries. We also participated in the PNPA Sinaglaya Class 2002 oath-taking in Davao City.

On 10 October, we were the guest speaker at the 5th National Convention of the Public Attorney’s Office Rank and File Employees, upon the invitation of PAO Chief Atty. Persida Acosta. For the third time, I was recognized as an “Outstanding Senator” by the PAO. However, as I’ve said, I will continue to serve my fellow Filipinos with or without an award or recognition.

We witnessed the groundbreaking of the Super Health Center in Plaridel, Bulacan on 11 October. We led the aid distribution for indigent families with Vice Governor Alex Castro, Congresswoman Augustina “Tina” Pancho, Mayor Jocell Vistan, Vice Mayor Lorie Vinta, and other local officials.

This week, groundbreakings were also held for Super Health Centers in Initao, Misamis Oriental; Rodriguez, Rizal; Isabela City, Basilan; Claveria, Misamis Oriental; and Bacoor City, Cavite. These Super Health Centers, which I advocated for and were funded through the collective efforts of DOH and lawmakers, aim to provide better access to primary healthcare, medical consultations, and early disease detection at the grassroots.

I met with the Filipino community in Hong Kong on 15 October, including overseas Filipino workers. As one of the guest speakers in the celebration of the First Indigenous Peoples Festival, I assured our OFWs there that they will always be part of my priorities.

It is indeed a dream come true that we now have a Department of Migrant Workers through a law, which I authored and co-sponsored, signed by former president Rodrigo Duterte. Aside from the DMW, we also have A Malasakit Center and an OFW Hospital in Pampanga, which I am pushing to be institutionalized through a bill I recently filed. I also filed the OFW Ward bill to establish a ward in every DOH-retained hospital exclusively for OFWs and their dependents.

My office also reached out to various communities to extend aid to those needing government attention the most.

We assisted 500 indigents of Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro, with Mayor Marilou Morillo and Councilor Jelina Magcusi. We also helped 655 residents of Caloocan City with Congresswoman Mitch Cajayon, as well as 700 residents of Cebu City with Congressman Edu Rama.

Additional aid was provided to TESDA graduates like, 300 from Ormoc City, Leyte; 400 from Tacloban City, Leyte; 150 in Mambusao and 100 in Roxas City, Capiz; and 25 beneficiaries at the TESDA Orientation in San Fernando City, Pampanga.

We also assisted displaced workers like 352 in Peñaranda, Nueva Ecija, with Congressman GP Padiernos; 642 in Medina, Misamis Oriental, with Congressman Christian Unabia; 381 in Dumarao, Capiz with Mayor Matt Hachuela; 120 in Lebak, Sultan Kudarat with Barangay Captain Ernesto Celeste Sr; 190 in Silay City, Negros Occidental with Mayor Joedith Gallego; and 372 displaced workers in Mataasnakahoy, Batangas with Mayor Janet Ilagan. These beneficiaries are also qualified for DOLE’s temporary employment program.

We provided assistance to fire-affected communities, including six households in Remedios T. Romualdez, Agusan del Norte, and 37 in Cagayan de Oro City.

Support was extended to seven recovering fire victims in Gingoog City; 31 in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental; 290 in Zamboanga City; 13 in Iligan City; and 18 flood victims in Maigo, Lanao del Norte, on top of what they received from NHA through the program we previously pushed for, so they can purchase nails, roofing, and other materials for repairing their houses amid recent disasters.

As we continue to help bring public services closer to Filipinos in need, the whole government must also be more responsive to the demands of the changing times, especially in facing threats in the digital world and in actual communities brought about by various crises and disasters.

Let us work together to provide a safer and more comfortable life to every Filipino, especially the poor, the helpless, and the hopeless who need government assistance the most.

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