Lacson sees conflict of interest on presence of Sec Duque in Philhealth Board

Maris Federez   •   June 19, 2019   •   1594

Senator Panfilo Lacson (L) and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III (R)

Senator Panfilo Lacson reveals having possession of several documents that will prove of the seeming conflict of interest with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III sitting in as head of the Philhealth Board.

Lacson made the revelation amid the corruption issues haunting the government health insurance body.

He said, based on the copy of a contract of lease in his possession, the regional office that Philhealth is renting in Dagupan City is owned by Duque’s family.

“If this is not conflict of interest, I don’t know what is. Building mo, naka-contract of lease ka and that is a family corporation,” Lacson said.

He added that he also found out some more modus operandi happening inside Philhealth.

“There’s another modus operandi kung saan yung hospital mismo in cahoots with PhilHealth. Nagbibigay ng report extending confinement of patients na nadischarge na,” he added.

The senator said he is worried of what could possibly happen to the billions of pesos that is allotted as a fund for the Universal Health Care program with Duque at the helm of Philhealth.

Lacson said he will call for an investigation regarding the said issue once the 18th Congress officially opens in July. (with reports from Nel Maribojoc) /mbmf

Senate probe will push through as PhilHealth chief requests for leave — Sotto

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 10, 2020

Senate President Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto assured that the probe on the alleged corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will push through amid the request of its president, Ricardo Morales, for a medical leave.

“It won’t stop our inquiry and other witnesses and testimonies from coming out. It won’t also stop the filing of charges against erring officials of PhilHealth if warranted,” he said.

Morales submitted his medical certificate stating that he cannot physically attend the Senate hearing due to his medical condition.

Meanwhile, the PhilHealth official lamented his privacy was not respected after his medical certificate was leaked to the public.

“As president and chief executive, it is my duty to represent the corporation while still physically capable. I regret that my privacy was not respected,” he said in a statement.

PhilHealth Executive Vice President and COO Arnel De Jesus also advised the Senate his inability to attend the said hearing due to a medical emergency. The Senate inquiry is scheduled for Tuesday (August 11).

Meanwhile, members of the Department of Information and Communications Technology will also attend the hearing to shed light on the issue of the alleged overpriced IT System budget of PhilHealth.

Sotto has also recommended putting the witnesses under the protection program of the Department of Justice. AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

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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)

Cayetano suggests hiring financial forensic experts to investigate corruptions in gov’t agencies

Marje Pelayo   •   August 6, 2020

MANILA, Philippines –  House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano suggests hiring of financial forensic experts to help investigate irregularities in government transactions and to hold accountable any official involved in corruption. 

Dahil pagdating sa paper trail na at sa white collar na type of crimes, what we need is not the street type of investigators pero yun nga yung mga forensic, financial forensic,” Cayetano said.

[Because when it comes to the paper trail and white-collar type of crimes, what we need is not the street type of investigators but those who are financial forensics.]

This was his proposal in relation to the Senate and the House of Representatives’ hearing on the alleged corruption inside the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

“I’m a little bit concerned that if it can happen to PhilHealth, what about the other government financial institutions who obviously get billions or hundreds of billions in budget. We have to have an effective watchdog,” the House Speaker noted.

Cayetano assures the support of Congress when it comes to the budget that will be needed should the Commision on Audit (COA) and the Philippine Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) decide to hire such experts.

The said financial forensic experts will not concentrate on PhilHealth alone but to other agencies and departments in the government.

Marikina Representative Stella Quimbo, meanwhile, expressed her agreement to Cayetano’s proposal saying these experts will be a big help in scrutinizing important documents that can be used as evidence to unveil widespread corruption in a specific government agency. 

“Agree po fully kay Speaker. Importanteng malaman ang [I fully agree with the Speaker. It’s important that we determine the] extent and patterns of fraud through the financial records,” she explained.

“This will facilitate investigation and evidence gathering in a systemic way. Otherwise, piecemeal ang approach. The financial forensics will show kung talamak ang fraud,” she added.

READ: Duterte wants probe on alleged PhilHealth anomaly

State insurer PhilHealth is currently in hot water after reports of alleged corruption among its executives particularly the ‘overpriced’ IT equipment and projects. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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