On the Reported Shouting Match over Corruption at PhilHealth

Unabated corruption and mismanagement of Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) funds has been a topic of discussion among Senate President Sotto and me, along with some senators from the majority bloc, for quite some time now.

But the reported shouting match in a recent virtual conference between the PhilHealth president and some board members involving almost P1 billion worth of questionable transactions, including a total overprice of P98 million – if true, says it all.

I am now drafting a resolution calling for a Senate Committee of the Whole inquiry. As expressed by SP Sotto to me last night, this inquiry will be one of the Senate’s top agenda after our session resumes on Monday.

That such corruption occurred amid the COVID-19 crisis makes it more disgusting and abominable. Nakakasuya na sobra. Needless to say, there is urgency that the Senate has to act on the matter immediately, as part of its oversight mandate, having passed the Universal Health Law.

When the Senate investigated issues surrounding PhilHealth and the Department of Health – including instances of conflict of interest involving the family of DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III with the family-owned Doctors Pharmaceuticals Inc. having contracts with the Department of Health, and the PhilHealth regional office renting a Duque-owned building; and with the Secretary’s pattern of failure prompting 14 of us in the Senate to file a resolution seeking his resignation – we had high hopes the shenanigans at PhilHealth would end with a new leadership. Sad to say, how wrong we were.

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QUOTES from DZBB/GNTV INTERVIEW:

What Prompted Senate Investigation:

Late last night, nagpadala ng mensahe si SP Sotto, na may info siya nagkaroon ng shouting match sa isang Zoom meeting, very recently ginawa ang Zoom meeting, nagkaroon ng shouting match at pinagusapan ang patuloy na katiwalian. Tapos sinabihan niya ako baka pwede tayo mag-file ng resolution dito, unahin natin pagbalik natin sa session. So nagtanong din ako kasi maraming nagsasalita sa PhilHealth di lang makalabas nang lantaran pero nagbibigay ng information, noon pa.”

“Nauna pa rito si majority leader Migz Zubiri meron ding nirefer sa aking gusto magsalita. Pero dahil (peak ng) pandemic noon, pinapakalap ko lahat na dokumento. So yan ang nagbungsod, naghanap din ako ng sariling information (bukod) sa binigay na naunang information ni SP. Nakakita na ako ng kopya ng resignation letter ni Atty Keith at may nakasaad doon. Pati ang agenda kung saan ang topic ng kanilang discussion, binibilang ko ang halaga roon sa DICT P700+ million yan. Pag tinotal mo figures na naroon kasama ang overprice, total overprice nasa P98M, plus another P132M na mga specifications, kung anu-ano.”

Kung bibilangin natin ang questionable items at transaction sa agenda na yan, pumapalo siya ng almost P1B. So ang pinanggalingan noon ang internal audit mismo ng report ng PhilHealth so may basehan. So nag-feedback ako kay SP, sabi ko mag-co-author tayong dalawa at sinong kasamahan namin. Kasi naging subject na rin ito sa chatroom namin na majority members ng Senado na talagang dapat imbestigahan muli. Noon malawak ang imbestigasyon na ginawa riyan, apparently wala ring nangyari masyado.”

Dapat may minutes yan kasi meeting yan. Meron yang minutes, meron niyang transcript. At meron tayong kopya ng agenda kaya natin nakita ang figures na nakasaad doon kung saan diniscuss nila ang internal audit report ng PhilHealth.”

Limitado lang naman ang pwede namin gawin. Ang implementation sa executive department. Kami noon may recommendation kami nagpirma pa ang 14 senador na magbitiw sa tungkulin si Sec Duque dahil lumabas sa pagdinig natin doon ang conflict of interest, meron siyang Doctors Pharmaceuticals pamilya nila may-ari na nakakontrata sa PhilHealth. Tapos ang building nila sa Dagupan, property nila, PhilHealth nagrerenta. Ano ba naman yan?”

New Corruption Issue Hounding PhilHealth:

Mga bagong issue ito na lumabas. Ang pagbabago na nagawa roon pinakamalaki siyempre napalitan ang PhilHealth president, pumasok si Dick Morales. Lahat kami, ako mismo nag-express, napakataas ng aming expectations at pag-asa na mababago. Pero sad to say patuloy pa rin. Sabi nga ng kasamahan ko unabated na, parang naging kultura sa PhilHealth. So something must be really very wrong na kailangan tingnan uli ng Senado bilang mga policy makers kasi kami nagpatupad ng UHC. Kongreso nagpasa niyan at meron kaming oversight function, mandato namin yan.”

Sa calculation ng taga-PhilHealth by 2022 wala na, ubos na pondo. Isipin mo pag 2022 wala nang pondo anong gagamitin natin? Kawawa ang mga member.”

“(Sa sabi ni PhilHealth President Morales na may P40B out of P130B ang nagamit sa pandemic), ang tanong, pera ba talaga yan? Cash ba talaga yan? Baka mamaya ang sinasabing P130B kasama ang mga collectibles tapos hindi pa nakokolekta yan. Pati kung babawasan ang payables katakot-takot yan, nagrereklamo ang ibang ospital na di pa sila nababayaran.”

Dapat natin makita ang status ng finances ng PhilHealth. Maganda malaman natin yan para magkaroon din tayo ng calculation kung may basehan ba ang sinasabi ng taga-loob na pagdating ng 2022 bangkarote ang PhilHealth. PhilHealth di lang govt na pondo ang nariyan, contribution natin lahat yan.

Corruption amid COVID Pandemic:

“That makes it more urgent and disgusting at abominable. Nakakasuya na sobra.”

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