36 PhilHealth execs to face raps â PACC
Commissioner Greco Belgica of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission said PhilHealth had failed to verify the information on receivables given by hospitals, resulting in the padding of claims.
Philhealth FB Page/File
36 PhilHealth execs to face raps – PACC
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - August 6, 2020 - 12:00am

Without evidence, Morales stays – Palace

MANILA, Philippines — At least 36 Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) officials should be dismissed or face charges over the supposed padding of hospital claims to the state-run insurer, an official of Malacañang’s anti-corruption body said yesterday.

Commissioner Greco Belgica of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) said PhilHealth had failed to verify the information on receivables given by hospitals, resulting in the padding of claims.

The PACC, according to Belgica, has recommended the dismissal of the officials and the filing of cases before the Office of the Ombudsman.

“We initially submitted 31 names. Now we have an additional five names, so it’s now 36,” he told Teleradyo in Filipino.

“The bulk of the problem of PhilHealth stems from the claims of hospitals. The receivables are so high and (PhilHealth does) not validate it... PhilHealth acts like an (automated teller machine). It just releases payments. It’s like getting a bill from a restaurant, but we are not looking at the bill,” he added.

Belgica did not identify the officials, but said more names may be included as the investigations move forward.

He also claimed that corruption is happening in the regions.

Evidence needed

As this developed, Malacañang yesterday said PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales won’t be fired unless there is proof linking him to anomalies, as it expressed hope that ongoing investigations would uncover evidence that President Duterte wants to see.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said Duterte would “do the correct thing” once the evidence that would provide a clearer picture of the PhilHealth mess is found.

“The President has said he will not fire (Morales) unless there’s evidence, and I think the Senate now is in the process of documenting this evidence. At the same time, there’s also parallel investigation being conducted by (Palace) Usec. (Jesus) Quitain,” Roque told CNN Philippines.

“That’s why I think after the evidence (is) unearthed, the President will move and do the correct thing. He knows that people are counting on PhilHealth at the time of a pandemic and we cannot afford the citizenry to lose their faith and trust in the agency that is most relevant to them when there is a threat of a disease. I’m confident that the President will be up to the challenge,” he added.

Last Tuesday, resigned PhilHealth anti-fraud legal officer Thorrsson Montes Keith claimed that officials of the state-run health insurer stole about P15 billion in funds through irregular transactions.

The executives, in turn, claimed that Keith was just making the accusation because he was not given a post that he wanted.

PhilHealth acting senior vice president Nerissa Santiago revealed at the same hearing that PhilHealth’s lifespan was reduced to just one year from 10 years because of decreased contributions and increased payouts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The insurer’s operating losses may reach P147 billion if the pandemic persists until next year, according to Santiago.?Estimate ‘accurate’

Roque said Keith’s estimates of the losses incurred by PhilHealth may be “accurate.”

“When we initially brought to the public’s attention the WellMed scam… we also had a source who said that for a period of time, PhilHealth lost about P174 billion more or less,” Roque said, referring to the “ghost dialysis” controversy.

“That is why if you look at what attorney Keith said, perhaps he’s giving us an accurate estimate because he’s not the only one who says that,” he added.

Roque said the P10 billion lost in fraudulent claims last year is “not something that we can digest and we should never digest.”

“We should never accept that even a single peso is lost through corruption... So every centavo counts; we cannot afford to lose P10 billion, not even one peso, for that matter,” he added.

The attempts to discredit Keith have established the resigned official’s credibility, according to Roque.

“(Keith) is an anti-fraud investigator and initially, when he resigned, Gen. Morales denied that he was an anti-fraud investigator... (He showed) his ID, that he is in fact an anti-fraud investigator,” the Palace spokesman said.

“The initial attempt of Gen. Morales to disclaim his employment as being an anti-fraud investigator, I think, is crucial because that established the credibility of Atty. Keith, and I think Gen. Morales knew that as well, that’s why he had to attempt to destroy his credibility by saying he had nothing to do with fraud investigation,” he added.

This makes Keith and his claims convincing, as he is “someone who is familiar with the pattern of fraud perpetrated at PhilHealth,” according to Roque.

He said it would be up to Morales now to decide whether to go on leave while the investigation is ongoing. Rampant corruption?

Roque has no evidence that Morales is corrupt, but the Palace spokesman admitted that he was worried about the supposed rampant corruption at PhilHealth.

“When (Morales) was placed there by the President to replace a previous board and a previous president because of the WellMed scam, our expectation (was) he (would) take concrete steps to rid the agency of corruption,” Roque said.

“What worried me was he admitted that corruption was still rampant, and I did not hear steps that he has taken to remove corruption in the agency – that, to me, is the most worrisome,” he added.

Roque expressed confidence that the investigations by Malacañang and Congress would expose the supposed anomalies hounding the health insurer.

‘Duque must go’

For Sen. Francis Pangilinan, PhilHealth’s P15-billion corruption scandal amid the COVID-19 pandemic is another reason why Health Secretary Francisco Duque III must go.

“Please, have pity on our kababayans. Please replace the Department of Health secretary and (Inter-Agency Task Force) head. Find someone with the capability to address COVID-19 and corruption. He used to be the chairman of the board of PhilHealth. He should be held accountable for the P15-billion scandal,” Pangilinan said in Filipino.

“On Aug. 6, the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing and Aug. 9 is the Nagasaki bombing. This pandemic is as worse as World War II. Negligence in the middle of a worse crisis is a criminal act; this is a crime of the year of the government agency in charge of our health,” he added.

Pangilinan was among a number of senators who sought a Senate investigation on corruption in the agency. In his Senate Resolution 474, Pangilinan said PhilHealth officials must be held accountable.

“We heard during the Senate hearing on Tuesday that corruption continues even during the pandemic. The taxpayers and those sick are disadvantaged,” he added.

Last week, Pangilinan stressed his point on accountability and voted no to Bayanihan Act 2 unless Duque goes, explaining that billions of pesos will go down the drain with Duque’s failure of leadership that condones incompetence and corruption.

Pangilinan pointed out that the Philippines is becoming the COVID hotspot in Southeast Asia as the country has recorded over 100,000 COVID-positive cases, while Malaysia has less than a tenth at 8,000 and Thailand, 5,000.

On Tuesday, the Philippines posted an all-time high of 6,352 new COVID-positive cases in one day, bringing the total to 112,593. – Cecille Suerte Felipe, Delon Porcalla, Mayen Jaymalin, Michelle Zoleta

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