PhilHealth execs cite health issues as House panels seek bank secrecy waivers
This undated photo shows members lining up for PhilHealth benefits at an unnamed hospital.
The STAR/File
PhilHealth execs cite health issues as House panels seek bank secrecy waivers
( - August 12, 2020 - 5:11pm

MANILA, Philippines — One by one, three officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation on Wednesday begged off from the House hearing on alleged irregularities at the state firm citing different medical reasons.

At the hearing conducted by the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability and Committee on Public Accounts, PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales was the first to exit after already begging off being physically present at a separate Senate probe.

PhilHealth executive vice president and COO Arnel de Jesus, who is allegedly confined at a hospital, and PhilHealth legal sector chief Rodolfo del Rosario Jr also left the hearing later on, citing health issues of their own. 

This came right before Morales could respond to a challenge by Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte (Camarines Sur, 2nd District), House deputy speaker for the three to sign bank secrecy waivers to allow the Anti-Money Laundering Council to check their bank accounts. 

"If they are innocent and not hiding anything, are they willing to sign a document that the AMLC can check their bank deposits?" Villafuerte said.

Other PhilHealth execs present at the hearing said they were open to it.

Rep. Mike Defensor (Anakalusugan party-list) also said that the House good government committee, which he chairs, would also write to other PhilHealth board members and officers to pose the same challenge, suggesting that the three company execs who left the meeting also be sent show-cause letters. 

President Rodrigo Duterte and health chief Francisco Duque have made few comments on the issue, with the former saying that he would not immediately fire the Morales until he has clear evidence of corruption.

Vice President Leni Robredo has meanwhile called for the suspension of the agency's executives, saying this would allow investigators to conduct a more thorough probe into the issues being held against it. 

On Sunday, the state insurance firm's rank-and-file union urged the chief executive to appoint a health insurance expert as an interim caretaker for the company while proceedings continue.

The Palace, though, said that Duterte would not add to the worries of the infirm Morales.

“You know, the president is really a very kind person. Especially now that Morales has a sickness, he will not add pressure to [General] Morales and I think that’s a good trait that the president is not a bad one,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in an interview over CNN Philippines’ "The Source".

“It’s up to Morales what he wants to do but the process of investigation will continue,” he added. — Franco Luna

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