Employees ask for ‘caretaker’ as PhilHealth faces corruption probe

Marje Pelayo   •   August 11, 2020   •   288

MANILA, Philippines – Employees of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) are asking President Rodrigo Duterte to appoint somebody of expertise who will supervise them as the investigation on the alleged corruption within the agency progresses. 

“We are calling on President Duterte to put an in-charge caretaker. A caretaker who is an expert in healthcare, financing, and social health insurance and with proven integrity and incorruptibility,” asked Maria Fe Francisco, National President of PhilHealth’s Workers for Hope, Integrity, Transparency, and Empowerment (PhilHealth-WHITE).

Francisco stressed, however, that that person shouldn’t be the Secretary of the Department of Health. 

“Further in our call we also stated that it cannot be the Secretary of Health, Secretary Duque who is the chairman of the board of PhilHealth because he himself is under investigation in several instances, in several venues,” she said as PhilHealth needs an officer-in-charge now that PhilHealth President Ricardo Morales is on leave.

The group noted the impact of the controversy on their morale as employees, that is why they are asking their executives and officials to heed the call for them to go on leave while the investigation is underway for the sake of impartiality. 

The employees also want to be enlightened on why several officials of the agency have been saying that PhilHealth only has a year to go when all of them believe it can still run for at least 10 more years.

“Ganoon ba kalala na ang problema sa Philhealth [Was PhilHealth’s problem that serious]? We felt betrayed because we’ve talked about it half our lives. We’re already with Philhealth. Dito na kami tumanda [This is where we aged],” she said.

Na-invest na namin ang aming career dito sa [We’ve invested our careers here at] Philhealth and all of a sudden we will learn during the investigation na hanggang 2021 na lang ang PhilHealth [that PhilHealth will exist only until 2021],” she added.

Speaking on behalf of the employees, Francisco said they believe that the irregularity lies on the level of some hospitals that have been abusing the agency’s casa-rate system. 

Dito nangyayari ang up-casing. A simple case of acute respiratory infection na dapat P4,000 lang ang case, ginagawang medium risk pneumonia na P19,000 ang paid coverage ng Philhealth [That’s when an up-casing happens. A simple case of acute respiratory infection which is supposedly covered for only P4,000 is being upgraded to medium risk pneumonia with a paid coverage of P19,000 from PhilHealth],” she explained.

The group says such a program or scheme is actually good and beneficial but it needs a strong safeguard to keep it free from corruption and irregularities.MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Duterte on purging corruption-ridden PhilHealth: ‘Yayariin ko kayo!’

Marje Pelayo   •   August 11, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – For the first time since the issue of corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) was revealed, President Rodrigo Duterte has spoken, warning all dishonest officials in the agency that he will definitely purge the institution.

“Huwag kayong magkakamali. Itong PhilHealth, sabi ko yayariin ko kayo. Maniwala kayo [Do not make a mistake. I tell you, those in PhilHealth. I will finish you off. Believe me],” he said during his public address aired on Monday night (August 10) referring to corrupt officials who managed to escape accountability during the previous administrations. 

As for those upright workers, the President said they have nothing to worry about and to continue working.

“Iyong mga inosente naman, wala kayong dapat na…Continue working, [Those who are innocent, you have nothing to worry about. Just continue working],” he added. 

Recently, the Chief Executive created a Task Force through the Department of Justice (DOJ) that will focus on investigating the transactions in PhilHealth starting with the auditing of its finances, conducting lifestyle checks among its officials and employees, and recommending preventive suspension, if necessary.

The Task Force is given 30 days to complete its report including its findings and recommendations and submit the same to the Office of the President.

The state insurer has been in hot waters due to allegations of corruption, specifically the ‘overpriced’ IT system project and the P15-B kickback from the agency’s public funds that were allegedly pocketed by its officials. –MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte orders DOJ to form task force to probe alleged corruption in PhilHealth

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 7, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to form a task force to investigate the alleged corruption in PhilHealth.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Friday (August 7) said the President already issued a memorandum to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to form a task force and file appropriate charges against officials proven to be involved in corruption.

The task force will also have the authority to audit PhilHealth finances, conduct lifestyle checks, and impose preventive suspensions of officials. The DOJ can also require other government agencies to assist in the investigation.

Si President is exasperated. Gusto na niyang matigil itong korupsyon sa PhilHealth, at gusto na niya na may ngipin itong task force na binuo niya. Ang mensahe po sa mga buwaya ng PhilHealth, tapos na po ang maliligayang araw ninyo diyan (The President is exasperated. He wants to curb the corruption in PhilHealth and he wants this task force to have teeth. To the corrupt officials in PhilHealth, your happy days are over),” he said.

The task force will have 30 days after its formation to submit its findings and recommendation to the Office of the President.

Meanwhile, Malacañang assures that the government will not allow the PhilHealth funds to run out. This is amid reports that the agency’s actuarial life is only for one year, instead of 10 years.

Kung hindi po sapat, gbyerno po talaga ang magdadagdag ng budget galing sa kaban ng bayan (If funds will not suffice, the government will supplement the budget),” Roque said. AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

PhilHealth execs volunteer for a lifestyle check amid corruption controversy

Marje Pelayo   •   August 7, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Some executives and officers of the embattled Philippine Health insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) are willing to have their personal assets and lifestyle checked amid the ongoing investigation on the alleged corruption within their ranks.

“In a move to belie any allegations of corruption, PhilHealth’s Executive Committee (EXECOM) and some senior officers have volunteered themselves to lifestyle checks to be conducted by any authorized agency of government,” the concerned officials said through PhilHealth’s official Twitter account.

In a virtual press conference on Thursday (August 6), the state insurer’s executive committee explained in detail the agency’s side on each of the allegations raised by the resigned former anti-fraud officer, Thorsson Montes Keith.

One of Keith’s accusations against his former bosses involves an alleged P15 billion kickback from the agency’s IT project. 

During the press conference, PhilHealth Senior Vice President for Legal Sector Atty. Rodolfo del Rosario Jr. said these accusations are costing them their safety as they have been receiving death threats recently. 

“Without hearing our explanation they have already concluded. Ang daming galit na tao sa amin, galit sa PhilHealth (People are angry at us, at PhilHealth). Lahat negative comments (All have negative comments). We have been receiving death threats dahil dito sa mga kasinungalingan (because of these lies),” he said. 

Del Rosario said they are now preparing to file a lawsuit against Keith.

“We can show receipts of releases of the IRM (interim reimbursement mechanism) na hindi yan binulsa ng mga execom (that it was not pocketed by the execom). So the whole execom will file charges against him for libel,” he said.

Amid the controversy, PhilHealth’s Senior Vice President for Operations R/BGen. Augustus de Villa resigned citing family reasons.

“He said he wanted to spend more time with his family,” noted PhilHealth President R/Gen. Ricardo Morales.

“I respect his decision and I’m grateful for his candor and that was the reason he told me that he opted to resign from PhilHealth,” he added.

But for Morales, he will remain in his position as long as he has the trust of President Rodrigo Duterte despite the request of his family to leave the controversial institution. 

“We continue to operate and any corporation meron namang (has its ) redundancies yan. Nobody is indispensable, not even me,” the former general said.

“So far, the messages I have been getting is to stay. You know, retired na ako noong pumasok ako dito (I was already retired when I joined PhilHealth). I was living a happy, care-free life before I came here and then my friend, the President, asked me. Hindi ko siya matanggihan (I couldn’t turn him down) that’s why I’m here,” he added.

Morales stands strong that PhilHealth still has around P216 billion in its treasury and the fund is enough to sustain the agency for next year.

But of course, it is up to the national government to provide them with an additional budget. 

Ang reinsurer kasi ng Philhealth is the national government. So if iko-connect natin iyan, mauubusan ng pera ang PhilHealth kapag naubusan ng pera ang gobyerno (PhilHealth’s reinsurer is the national government. So if we are to connect them, PhilHealth will only lose fund if the government has no funds left),” Morales explained. 

Morales admitted that the agency is struggling in terms of funds since it has been shelling out huge amounts since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak started while member contributions have slowed down due to the crisis.

In the previous hearings, House Committee on Public Accounts chair, Mike Defensor already asked for the statement of assets and liabilities and networth (SALN) of each PhilHealth executive and official to be presented for scrutiny in the next hearing. MNP (with details from Rey Pelayo)

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