Senate probe: PhilHealth chief faces accusers
The investigation will be conducted by the entire chamber convening as the committee of the whole with Senate President Vicente Sotto III chairing the probe despite the two-week lockdown in the premises.
Senate PRIB, file
Senate probe: PhilHealth chief faces accusers
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - August 4, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) president Ricardo Morales and other ranking officials of the state firm are expected to face their accusers today at the start of the Senate inquiry into alleged multibillion-peso corruption in the agency.

The investigation will be conducted by the entire chamber convening as the committee of the whole with Senate President Vicente Sotto III chairing the probe despite the two-week lockdown in the premises.

Sotto said despite the Senate voluntarily going into an “ECQ” (enhanced community quarantine), committee hearings will continue in “hybrid” format, especially for the PhilHealth issue, which he described as “very urgent and important” as the agency handles P221 billion in members’ funds.

He said the inquiry would start on three issues or allegations – the favoritism of PhilHealth in paying claims of certain hospitals; overpricing of information and communications technology (ICT) systems and the leakages and financial health of the agency.

“I think we will have to amend the law creating the PhilHealth to prevent similar occurrences in the future,” Sotto told reporters yesterday via video conference.

While Morales and other officials may be physically present at the inquiry, some of the whistle-blowers may be testifying online, he said.

He said resigned members of the board are also expected to testify.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who pushed for the probe, identified some of the witnesses expected to testify on the existence of a “mafia” in PhilHealth.

One is resigned anti-fraud officer Thorrsson Montes Keith, who alleged that PhilHealth officials favored two private hospitals in Bicol and Eastern Visayas in releasing over P400 million in combined claims in just a week under a government initiative to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the hospitals only had one COVID-19 patient, Lacson said.

Another witness is Morales’ former head executive assistant, Etrobal Laborte, who reported the alleged overpriced ICT system.

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