Task Force PhilHealth to file additional charges
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Task Force PhilHealth intends to file additional complaints in the coming days.

Task Force PhilHealth to file additional charges

Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - October 6, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines The Senate and House of Representatives have the right to file a separate complaint against erring officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) before the Office of the Ombudsman, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said yesterday.

He said Task Force PhilHealth intends to file additional complaints in the coming days.

“Nothing prevents the Senate or the House from initiating their own complaints against erring PhilHealth officials. Both the executive and legislative branches, representing the interest of the people, are duty-bound to rid any government agency or entity of corruption and wrongdoing,” said Guevarra.

Last Sunday, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the Senate is considering filing a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who is also chairman of PHilHealth’s board of directors, and other officials of the corporation.

Lacson also reportedly said Senate President Vicente Sotto’s sources in the Task Force PhilHealth said they have pieces of evidence that could pin down Duque.

“We will be glad to discuss these pieces of evidence with Senators Sotto and Lacson. As I’ve repeatedly said, the work of the task force covered only a few areas of fraud and corruption due to limitations of time, but the member agencies have agreed to continue working together to investigate and prosecute other irregularities,” Guevarra added.

In its Sept. 14 report, the task force headed by Guevarra only recommended to President Duterte to “strongly admonish and remind Duque and members of the PhilHealth Board of the grave consequences of their action or inaction.”

In the first complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and endorsed by the Department of Justice, also included were former PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Ricardo Morales, executive vice

president and chief operating officer Arnel de Jesus, senior vice president Renato Limsiaco Jr., senior vice president Israel Francis Pargas of the health financial policy sector and other respondents Gregorio Rulloda, Imelda Trinidad de Vera, Lolita Tuliao, Gemma Sibucao and Lailani Padua.

A complaint for violation of Sections 3(e) and 3(i) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, malversation of public funds or property, violation of Sections 251, 255 and 272 of the National Internal Revenue Code and Section 4 of Republic Act 1051 was filed in connection with the questionable grant of advances to a number of healthcare institutions in the National Capital Region (NCR) pursuant to the interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM).

COA report

The Commission on Audit (COA) has called out the Department of Health (DOH) over various government hospitals’ failure to collect their reimbursement claims from PhilHealth.

In its 2019 annual audit report on the DOH, the audit body noted that a total of P111.15 million in reimbursement claims of various government hospitals and health facilities were denied by PhilHealth last year supposedly due to non-compliance with the requirements prescribed under the revised implementing rules and regulations (RIRR) of Republic Act 10606 or the National Health Insurance Act of 2013.

“The denied claims for reimbursement to the PHIC led to the non-collection of material amounts, resulting in loss of hospital income which could have been used to augment their operating requirements,” the COA said.

A graph provided in the report showed that 69 percent of the denied claims were from public hospitals in Metro Manila, 12 percent from Region 2 (Cagayan Valley), 6 percent from Region 1 (Ilocos), 6 percent from Region 10 (Northern Mindanao), 5 percent from Region 12 (Soccsksargen) and 2 percent from Region 4-B (Mimaropa).

Among the hospitals identified with the highest denied claims were the Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Caloocan City with P63.144 million; Cagayan Valley Medical Center in Tuguegarao with P7.534 million; Mayor Hilarion A. Ramiro Sr. Medical Center in Ozamiz City with P6.403 million and San Lorenzo Ruiz Women’s Hospital in Malabon City with P5.772 million.

The COA directed the management of the concerned hospitals to analyze the cause of disapproval of their claims and make sure that the problems are addressed as soon as possible “to improve reimbursement rate.”

The audit report came out amid the controversies hounding PhilHealth, one of which is the alleged irregularities in the handling of P30-billion fund for the IRM program.

The IRM are funds given to hospitals for their health crisis response, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Investigation by Congress revealed that most of the healthcare centers and clinics granted the funds do not cater to COVID-19 cases.

COA also questioned the DOH for the expired, nearly expired and overstocked medicines and dental supplies in 2019 amounting to P2.2 billion.

The audit body’s breakdown showed that a total of P29.952 million worth of medicines as well as dental and medical supplies in the DOH Central Office (CO), DOH Center for Health Development (CHD) and six other DOH health facilities have expired as of Dec. 31, 2019.

Also, P1.024 billion worth of drugs and medicines stored in the DOH Central Office warehouse were already nearing expiration but remain undistributed to government hospitals and healthcare facilities nationwide, as of end-2019.

The records also showed that P1.144 billion worth of medicines and medical supplies were considered idle or overstocked in the warehouses of DOH CO and Caraga Regional Hospital.

In its 2018 annual audit report on the DOH, the COA noted that the agency has P18.449 billion worth of medicines purchased from 2015 to 2018 which have yet to be distributed to government hospitals, health centers and other government treatment facilities as of the end of that audit year.

The COA said P294.767 million worth of the medicines were found to be nearing expiry as of January 2019, while P30.353 million worth of medicines were found to have already expired.

Meanwhile, the Veritas Truth Survey (VTS) of the Church-run radio station Radio Veritas showed that a slight majority of Filipinos are perceived to reject the proposal to abolish the corruption-plagued PhilHealth.

The VTS yesterday announced that of 1,200 respondents they asked from Sept. 25 to Oct. 4, 56 percent are against the proposed abolition of PhilHealth and 39 percent agreed to the closure of state health insurer.

The remaining five percent of respondents were still undecided on the issue.

In a statement, VTS head Bro. Clifford Sorita said the 39 percent of those in favor of abolishing PhilHealth represents 4 out of 10 Filipinos.

The survey was conducted after the Senate and House and Task Force PhilHealth completed their investigations into the alleged anomalies and financial controversies inside the agency.

Sorita, a sociologist, said, “When almost half of the respondents are inclined to abolish PhilHealth, it sends a clear signal that urgent reforms must be undertaken. Trust is the glue of any public governance. It is the foundational principle that holds all forms of relationship between the state and the people. When it is eroded as reflected by such public sentiment mirrored by this survey, how can it be used effectively to serve the mandate it is supposed to perform?” – Elizabeth Marcelo

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