PhilHealth chief says P15 billion not missing, 92% already liquidated
This undated photo former NBI director and now PhilHealth President and CEO Dante Gierran
The Freeman, file

PhilHealth chief says P15 billion not missing, 92% already liquidated

(Philstar.com) - January 26, 2021 - 6:13pm

MANILA, Philippines — PhilHealth on Tuesday sought to deny that the P15 billion said to have been amassed by its officials are missing, with its chief adding that nearly all of it had already been liquidated.

The state health insurer faced public outrage and scrutiny last year after a whistleblower alleged that the billions of pesos in its funds were stolen through anomalous transactions by members of PhilHealth's executive committee.

Such controversies hounding the agency eventually led to a change in leadership, with its former officials charged before the Ombudsman.

But at a Palace briefing, its CEO and President Dante Gierran said the controversial funds had actually been liquidated per orders from Congress.

"Sa totoo lang po hindi nawawala, andiyan lang," he said. "On record, ang utos po ng Senado at ng lower house [ay] i-liquidate. So sa ngayon po, 92% na ang liquidated."

(To tell you the truth, it is not missing. It is just there. On record, the Senate and the House told us to liquidate, hence at present, 92% have so far been liquidated.)

Gierran, who faces the tall order of reforming PhilHealth that had faced corruption allegations even in the past years, added that he would not allow public funds to go missing.

"Kakaunti na lang. I will not allow this," he said. "Galing ako sa NBI [at] hindi puwede mangyari sa akin 'yan."

(Only a few are remaining to be liquidated. I came from the NBI and I won't let this happen to me.)

As of January 13, PhilHealth in updates posted on social media said 401 out of 711 health care facilities are now "fully liquidated" in the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism, 245 at 50% and 65 facilities barely half in their progress.

In Congress, Rep. Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna) urged the Commisson on Audit to look into Gierran's claim, saying the P15 billion is larger than the P10 billion pork barrel scam in 2013."There was already a finding by Congress that the IRM is anomalous," he said in a statement. "This so-called liquidation will not just make it all right or erase the fact that it is anomalous or even criminal."

Furor over PhilHealth last year had been exacerbated with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has so far infected over 516,000 Filipinos and left more than 10,300 dead. 

Apart from corruption allegations, the agency also figured in a series of delay in payments to the Philippine Red Cross for its COVID-19 tests, which led the humanitarian organization to halt its screenings that dealt a significant decrease in the country's overall testing capacity.

PhilHealth was also supposed to hike its premium contribution this year as mandated by law. But the move had faced calls to postpone, with senators saying the agency should first clean its ranks.

It has since been postponed, with lawmakers nearing approval of a measure that would grant the president the power to suspend increases in times of national emergencies. — Christian Deiparine

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