PhilHealth execs volunteer for a lifestyle check amid corruption controversy

Marje Pelayo   •   August 7, 2020   •   441

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)

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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