PhilHealth execs agree to open bank records to AMLC

Marje Pelayo   •   August 13, 2020   •   301

MANILA, Philippines — Executives and senior officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) agreed on Wednesday (August 12) to open their bank records to the scrutiny of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

This was in response to the demand of Camarines Sur Rep. L-Ray Villafuerte in relation to the ongoing probe on the alleged corruption within the agency.

“If they’re innocent and they are not hiding anything, are they willing to sign a statement that the AMLC can verify their bank deposits or bank transactions?” he asked the respondents.

“Kung wala silang ginagawang anomalya, walang ninakaw sa gobyerno (If they’re not involved in anomalies and have not stolen from the government) are they willing with no objection?” he added, to which the respondents said yes.

All those who were present in the hearing venue, as well as officials who were monitoring through video conferencing, agreed.

However, three of the state insurer’s executives were not able to answer as they were on a medical leave.

They are Philhealth president and CEO, Ricardo Morales, executive vice president and chief operating officer Arnel de Jesus and PhilHealth’s senior vice president for legal, Atty. Rodolfo del Rosario.

The Lower House through an official letter, asked other officials who were not in the hearing if they would also agree to having their bank accounts examined by AMLC.

Apart from the top executives, PhilHealth’s leadership structure includes seven senior vice presidents; four area vice presidents; 16 regional vice presidents and five branch managers.

Meanwhile, the lawmakers questioned PhilHealth officials as to where the accreditation fees go.

Since 1995, health care providers seeking accreditation from PhilHealth are required to pay a certain amount.

House Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante Jr. raised the issue after receiving reports that the accreditation fees being paid by applicant institutions are allegedly being distributed to PhilHealth officials as allowances.

“Totoo ba na na itong accreditation fees na ito (Is it true that these accreditation fees) are being used, shared and divided by PhilHealth officials and ex-com officials?” he asked the respondents.

PhilHealth’s senior vice president for health finance policy sector, Israel Francis Pargas explained that the distribution of said allowances to medical officials began in 2008.

It only stopped after the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged the agency about it and issued notice of disallowance in 2014.

Iba-iba siya taon-taon depende sa (The amount varies every year depending on the) accreditation fee and was stopped in 2014 because may (there was a) notice of disallowance,” Pargas said. (with details from Rey Pelayo)

Duterte commends Ombudsman’s efforts in PhilHealth probe

Marje Pelayo   •   September 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has nothing but praises for the Office of the Ombudsman on its investigation on the irregularities inside the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

In the duration of the probe, Ombudsman Samuel Martires suspended for six months 13 officials of the embattled agency.

The president said the relationship between the executive branch and the ombudsman has improved a lot.

“No other time na ang rapport ng Ombudsman sa Executive department ay maganda ang samahan. [There’s no other time that the rapport between the Ombudsman and the Executive department is smooth.] It’s a matter of human relations. How you present the problem. And I find Martires, a very reasonable man,” the President said. 

He said he also understands Ombudsman Martires’ desire to finally end the controversies in PhilHealth.

“Iyong (pinalabas) ng PhilHealth, sunod-sunod. Sabi ko, I think he’s trying his best to help us. Kung ganoon ang sitwasyon, at least we’re better off. At least, for now,” President Duterte said. -MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte approves filing of cases against Morales, et al

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 15, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the filing of charges against former Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) CEO Ricardo Morales and other officials allegedly involved in the ‘mass corruption’ inside the agency.

“The issue of PhilHealth corruption was really an important issue to the Filipinos and to everybody. And everybody again is also placed in jeopardy by the actions of the officials,” the President said.

“I’m sorry for them but you have to undergo trial. Although they can always prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The presumption of innocence still attaches but the report of another agency says otherwise. So ganun ang nangyari sa PhilHealth. Halos lahat sa board,” he added.

Based on the investigation of Task Force PhilHealth, several officials have violations of withholding taxes regarding the interim reimbursement mechanism, graft, and malversion. They will also be facing charges for dishonesty, grave misconduct, disloyalty, gross neglect of duty, inefficiency and incompetence, as well as falsification of public documents.

The officials who will be facing the said charges aside from Morales are Senior Vice President Renato Limsiaco Jr., Senior Vice President Jovita Aragona, Officer-in-Charge Calixto Gabuya Jr., Senior Vice President Israel Pargas, Executive Vice President and COO Arnel De Jesus, and Division Chief Bobby Crisostomo.

Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who is also leading the Task Force PhilHealth, said they are still continuing their investigation.

“Our composite teams will continue their ongoing investigations and special audits and file legal actions as they finish one case after another,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, PhilHealth released a statement saying the involved officials are prepared to follow the President’s mandate and will cooperate in the process. AAC (with reports from Dante Amento)

Duque not yet cleared from PhilHealth mess – Palace

Marje Pelayo   •   September 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) Task Force PhilHealth may have finished its probe into the alleged irregularities within the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) but Malacañang said the matter is not yet over for Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Duque is not yet cleared from the controversy even after President Rodrigo Duterte named some officials of the state insurer who he ordered to file administrative and criminal charges against. 

To the surprise of many, Duque was not in the list. 

Task Force PhilHealth recommended to the President to admonish the officials of the agency from the chairman down to the members of the board for their actions and inactions on matters concerning the funds of PhilHealth.

Roque stressed that investigation on PhilHealth issue is far from over.

“This is only the beginning,” Roque said.

“Nakasaad din po sa report na magpapatuloy po ang imbestigasyon ng NBI at ng DOJ, at magpapatuloy pa rin po ang imbestigasyon ng Ombudsman [The report also stated that the investigation of NBI and the DOJ will continue as well as of the Ombudsman],” he added.

Among the issues that still need to be investigated include the alleged negligence concerning the ratification of the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) of the agency; the alleged overpriced ICT procurement deal; and the agency’s failure to investigate and prosecute those who are involved in corrupt practices.

Roque revealed that aside from Duque, there are also some members of the Cabinet who are ex-officio members of PhilHealth’s Board of Directors.

He further said that one more thing to look into is the concealment of records by some members of the executive committee from the members of the board of directors. 

“Kinakailangan pagsabihan ang chairman at ang members of the board including ang five members of the Cabinet na kinakailangang mas matindi ang kanilang pagbabantay sa pondo ng kabang bayan nang hindi po nawawala sa ganitong paraan [We must remind the chairman and the members of the board, including the five members of the Cabinet, that there is a need to strictly safeguard the national budget so we will not lose it like this],” Roque stressed. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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