Hontiveros scores Uson's Facebook blog for spreading old rumors about her
In this file photo from July 2017, Sen. Risa Hontiveros speaks during a youth forum.
Risa Hontiveros/Released
Hontiveros scores Uson's Facebook blog for spreading old rumors about her
(Philstar.com) - August 4, 2020 - 10:01pm

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday called out Overseas Workers Welfare Administration deputy administrator Mocha Uson for a post on her Facebook page that tried to link the senator to anomalies at the Philippine Health Inusrance Corp.

Uson, a blogger supportive of the Duterte administration who has since been appointed to a series of government posts, now has "administrators" who post on the Facebook page "Mocha Uson Blog".

One of those administrators, identified only as "admin ain" reposted a question by a certain Ermin Garcia Jr. that Hontiveros, as a former PhilHealth official, should explain.

"Admin ain" shared the post with the following caption: "Ano po masasabi niyo sa post ni Sir Ermin Garcia Jr. na dapat mag-explain si Senator Risa Hontiveros."

Hontiveros posted her response on her Twitter account: A screenshot of the "Mocha Uson Blog" post side by side with a statement from PhilHealth that she "is not included in the subject Notice of Disallowance."  

According to Commission on Audit rules, a disallowance is "the disapproval in audit of a transaction, either in whole or in part" of disbursements. If an expense is disallowed, the agency or its officials must return the money spent to the government.

"Mag-focus ka sa trabaho mo sa OWWA imbes na magpakalat ng #FakeNews," Hontiveros told Uson.

"Kailangan ng tulong ng OFWs pero nagawa mo pang magkalat ng chismis sa isyu na pinabulaanan na ng COA at PhilHealth mismo," she added. 

READ: Cases filed vs dialysis center for ‘ghost’ kidney treatments, says PhilHealth

Notices of Disallowance issued to PhilHealth 

Hontiveros was appointed a director of PhilHealth in November 2014 and was a member of the Philhealth board until October 2015.

VERA Files, in a fact check in 2018 when the PhilHealth issue was revived against the senator, noted that COA, in separate decisions, affirmed the Notices of Disallowance issued to PhilHealth in 2011 and 2015.

State auditors flagged the following disallowed fund releases:

  • P80,790,075.02 worth of Christmas packages, anniversary gifts and performance incentive bonuses given out in 2009 and 2010
  • P83,062,385.27 in educational assistance allowances and birthday gifts in 2014.

RELATED: PhilHealth told to return P139-million allowances, bonuses

The VERA Files fact check also quoted an email from Hontiveros' office saying that the senator "is not party to the case wherein the COA has ordered the officials of PhilHealth to return P163.85 million in alleged unauthorized bonuses and allowances."

Hontiveros' office also said the bonuses were approved before she was on the PhilHealth board.

"Former Board Member and now Senator Risa Hontiveros is not included in the subject Notice of Disallowance," Rey Baleña, Philhealth corporate communications manager, is also quoted as saying in an e-mail to VERA Files.

The Senate on Tuesday held a hearing into alleged anomalies at PhilHealth, including supposed overpricing of IT equipment.

Thorrsson Keith, a former PhilHealth anti-fraud legal officer on Tuesday alleged that executives of the state-run firm have stolen P15 billion from its funds.

"What we found at PhilHealth is the crime of the year due to the syndication of the distribution of cash advance, the interim reimbursement mechanism, and the repeated overpricing of purchased IT equipment," Keith told the Senate in Filipino.

PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales, appointed in 2019, defended the purchase of the IT equipment, saying "PhilHealth's allegedly overpriced P2.1-billion IT program over three years is paltry compared to the tens of billions of pesos lost to fraud every year."

At a press briefing in June, Morales said that while there may be “inefficiencies” in their operations including in the processing of claims, there is no syndicate or “group of people colluding to defraud the corporation in that scale.”

“We are a very large corporation. Every day we process about 50,000 claims in 16 regional offices, about 120 branches, local health insurance offices. Some of them manually, some of them are not yet integrated. (Documents) are transferred manually, not yet automated,” he added.

He said then that PhilHealth needs a better information system to handle its records.

"Now, there is no healthcare system in the world that is fraud-free… But we can reduce the problem if we have perfectly integrated and harmonized information system but this is not going to happen overnight. It will take some time before coming into effect,' he said then. — Jonathan de Santos with reports from Jan Milo Severo

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