Corruption at PhilHealth? File case ASAP
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Valeriano Avila (The Freeman) - August 6, 2020 - 12:00am

If there is anything that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte failed to look into in its anti-corruption campaign, it is the corruption within the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth). An alleged whistleblower said that some P15 billion in funds through many anomalous transactions were exposed during a hearing in the Senate. PhilHealth officer Thorrsson Montes Keith, who resigned as anti-fraud legal officer of PhilHealth due to what he described as widespread corruption in the agency, alleged that a “mafia” was behind what he branded as the “crime of the year” due to fraudulent schemes.

What was even more distressing with this news was when Acting PhilHealth senior vice president Nerissa Santiago revealed that the insurance agency could go bankrupt next year. As Santiago pointed out, PhilHealth has about P221 billion in funds and may no longer be able to sustain operations due to the decreased collections and increased payouts for the health expenses of members due to COVID-19.

Santiago also noted that prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the actuarial life of PhilHealth fund was 10 years, but when the pandemic struck, its lifespan drastically shortened to just one year, which is quite sad. Santiago added: “Because of the decreased contributions and increased COVID-19 payouts, we are expecting that by 2021, we will be in the red. We can only survive with additional contribution coming from the government.”

Santiago added that the agency suffered project net operating losses at P90 billion for this year and if the pandemic persists until 2021, operating losses will total P147 billion. She said the PhilHealth system would “collapse” by then.

With the Duterte administration running low on funds, President Duterte has to make a decision on whether to add to the PhilHealth funds or face a bankruptcy, which wouldn’t be of any help to anyone. So at this point, we expect to see the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the Office of the Ombudsman to immediately file corruption cases against certain officials of the PhilHealth. Call me the lucky one that when I had my kidney transplant nearly four years ago, I was given a hefty sum by PhilHealth which, for me, was a great way of saying that all the years I have been paying my dues to the government had paid off. How things have suddenly turned from bad to worse in the financial picture of PhilHealth. We shall be talking more on this issue in the days or months to come.

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I just read in the news that the Philippines will no longer be participating in joint maritime exercises in the South China Sea with other countries, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said last Monday. According to Secretary Lorenzana, President Duterte issued this directive to reduce tension in the contested waterway.

The Defense secretary added that “President Rodrigo Duterte has a standing order to us, to me, that we should not involve ourselves in naval exercises in the South China Sea except our national waters, the 12 mile distance from our shores.” How sad!

Obviously for me, President Duterte is still hoping that his friendship with Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Xi would preserve whatever peace that he thinks we can get from this. However, President Duterte failed to notice that since so many nations have openly chastised China for its bullying and brazen attacks against Filipino fishermen in the South China Sea, those attacks which happened in almost a daily rate in the past have become rare.

This is because US President Donald Trump has already openly defied what the CPP has been up to, especially in its handling of the coronavirus incident, which has now killed more than 200,000 Americans. Then came US Defense Secretary Mike Pompeo who openly declared that China does not have a legal claim in the South China Sea. Hence, he has now sent the US 7th fleet with two carrier battle groups patrolling the international waters of the South China Sea.

With America stopping the bullying of China in the South China Sea, we are now joined by many nations like Indonesia, Vietnam, Australia, Japan and the US in making sure that the sea lanes of the South China Sea are open for business. So in the end, President Duterte is making a serious mistake in not allowing the Philippine Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to join the joint maritime exercises in the South China Sea.

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For email responses to this article, write to vsbobita@mozcom.com  or vsbobita@gmail.com . His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com .

CORRUPTION PHILHEALTH
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