Billions in PhilHealth funds released, 'exposed to corruption' each week, PACC says

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
Billions in PhilHealth funds released, 'exposed to corruption' each week,  PACC says
This undated photo shows members lining up for PhilHealth benefits at an unnamed hospital.
The STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission on Tuesday warned that funds released by PhilHealth which can go as high as P3 billion per week are susceptible to fraud.

"Two to three billion pesos is released by PhilHealth each week and all this is exposed to corruption. And now, while we are at this hearing, the theft and pay-offs continues among those who steal because the system has not been changed," PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica told the Senate in Filipino.

"Ang issue ng PhilHealth, grabe po ito. Grabe ang nakawan, grabe ang kakapalan, at grabe ang kawalang-hiyaan. (The issue of PhilHealth is extreme. The stealing is extreme and the shamelessness is extreme)."

He further alleged that the problem of corruption has infiltrated PhilHealth at all levels.

'Corruption from top to bottom at PhilHealth'

"If General (Ricardo) Morales is removed, it won't matter because it won't address the problem as corruption in PhilHealth goes from head to toe," Belgica said in Filipino.

He emphasized that the investigation into PhilHealth must reach the core of the problem, rather than just cut off its head.

"Everyone, from top to bottom, must face charges, face consequences, and must be replaced," the commissioner added in Filipino.

Belgica further accused PhilHealth of failing to file the necessary charges against a number of its personnel.

"There is almost no case filed by PhilHealth against erring officials. [There are] over 200 cases not acted upon to this day."

PACC flags faulty IT and legal systems at PhilHealth

Given all this, Belgica recommended that more attention must be given to both the information technology and legal systems at PhilHealth in order to weed out corruption, further noting that PhilHealth's existing IT system has no "validation mechanism."

He added PhilHealth must simplify its legal system and further investigate complaints of upcasing or the padding of claims to collect higher reimbursements.

Belgica also recommended that officers-in-charge be appointed to lead operations within the agency.

The PACC on August 3 submitted a report on the findings of its investigation into PhilHealth's system to President Rodrigo Duterte, wherein it recommended either the firing or the filing of cases against 36 individuals over alleged irregularities within the agency. 

On Tuesday, he said that the commission would be filing a case at the Office of the Ombudsman and that the probe would continue under Task Force PhilHealth, an inter-agency body headed by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

These allegations of corruption against officials of the state-run health insurer are unfolding as the country faces a crisis of epic proportions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monday saw another record-breaking high of almost 7,000 new infections among Filipinos, while almost 3,000 new cases logged on Tuesday upped the national caseload to 139, 538.

At the urging of medical frontliners who said they were increasingly overwhelmed by the surge in COVID-19 cases, President Rodrigo Duterte reverted Metro Manila and nearby provinces to a stricter modified enhanced community quarantine until at least August 18.

Tuesday marks the 147th day that the country has been under community quarantine — the longest in the world.

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