PhilHealth execs may face deluge of cases over funds, Lacson says
This undated photo shows Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
PRIB/Alberto Calvelo, File photo
PhilHealth execs may face deluge of cases over funds, Lacson says
Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - August 18, 2020 - 2:02pm

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Ping Lacson on Tuesday warned PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales and another top executive that they may soon be facing a multitude of cases over alleged corruption and fraud schemes within the state-run agency.

"Malamang maliligo kayo ng kaso kapag ibinahagi na ni [Senate President Vicente] Tito Sotto kay [Justice] Secretary Menardo Guevarra ang lahat na records ng proceedings ng pagdinig na sinasagawa namin ngayon," Lacson warned Morales and PhilHealth Senior Vice President for Fund Management Sector Renato Limsiaco Jr.

(You will likely bathe in cases once Senate President Tito Sotto shares the records of these hearings with Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra).

As the Senate conducted the third hearing of its probe into PhilHealth, Lacson slammed Limsiaco for previously telling senators that he was unaware of the agency's obligation to withhold tax upon releasing funds from its Interim Reimbursement Mechanism.

The IRM, which is a fund meant for calamitous events, has been the subject of scrutiny amid the Senate's probe into its disbursement among healthcare institutions, with Lacson claiming that hundreds of millions have been disproportionately released to dialysis centers and maternity care providers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When I countered that advance payments are subject to withholding tax, he admitted that PhilHealth had in fact remitted P156 million to the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) last August 3, and then claimed that he charged the amount to the Corporate Operational Budget of PhilHealth," Lacson said on Tuesday, recalling Limsiaco's statements from a previous hearing.

"Then, he followed up with another lie – that he didn’t know that it was an obligation under the law that he had to withhold taxes,” he added.

Lacson then bared a memorandum issued by Morales and Limsiaco which showed that the agency remitted 2% of expanded withholding tax to the Bureau of Internal Revenue, "dated August 7, four days before Mr Limsiaco patently lied before this committee."

 

According to Lacson, the memorandum also instructed regional vice presidents to issue BIR Form 2307 or Certificate of Creditable Tax Withheld At Source to healthcare institutions despite the fact that they had not yet been paid by said hospitals.

He added in Filipino: "BIR Form 2307 is issued as proof of payment that hospitals have paid their expanded withholding taxes for the IRM advance payments they have received. If we follow SVP Limsiaco's argument that they have not collected taxes from hospitals, even more than just lying, he and Gen. Morales ordered RVPs to commit the crime of Falsification of Public Documents?"

In addition to the misappropriation of payments for withholding taxes, which Lacson called a clear case of Malversation of Public Funds of Property, the senator listed "violations of the National Intenal Revenue Code and Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act or RA 3019," and alleged anomalous payments to dialysis centers and maternity providers amid the COVID-19 crisis, as cases that may be filed against PhilHealth's top execs.

PhilHealth president and CEO Morales, who is currently on medical leave, was absent from the hearing along with PhilHealth Vice President Arnel De Jesus, both citing medical checkups as their reasons.

In addition to the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Ombudsman and an inter-agency task force led by the justice department are all conducting separate probes into the allegations of corruption, mismanagement and inefficiencies hounding the PhilHealth.

The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission 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.

The implementation of the IRM has also been suspended by PhilHealth for further review.

COVID-19 NOVEL CORONAVIRUS PHILIPPINE HEALTH INSURANCE CORP
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