The PhilHealth Insurance Corporation overlooked that some of its members in its database are 130 years old amid the controversies the state-run firm is facing.
During the lengthy Senate hearing on August 4, PhilHealth President Ricardo Morales disclosed that about 5,000 of its members remained in its system are 130 years and they did not know if they are alive or not.
Morales explained that the PhilHealth’s IT System Development program which was marred with corruption allegations to the senators.
“Hindi ho umaabante yung IT System Development program. That’s the main reason. Kasi yun ho ang malaking makakasagot sa issues about corruption,” he said.
“So kung ito at makakakuha tayo ng sapat na budget for IT, maiimplement ito, mare-reduce natin significantly yung ating fraud,” he added.
Morales also argued that PhilHealth needed the new IT program to verify if these members are still alive or not.
“For example ho sa ngayon, meron tayong 5,000 members na according to our database ay 130 years old. Hindi ho natin pwedeng matanggal ito kasi kasi wala ho kaming dokumentong nagsasabi na namatay na itong mga taong ito,” he said.
The Guinness World Record for the oldest living person in the world is held by a Japanese woman named Kane Tanaka who’s currently 117 years old. She was born on Jan. 2, 1903 and resides in Fukuoka, Japan.
The oldest person recorded by Guinness, on the other hand, was Jeanne Louise Calment who was 122 years old when she held the title.
Calment was born on Feb. 21, 1875 in France. She, however, passed away on August 4, 1997.
Filipinos, however, pointed out that none of them’s Filipino nor a member of PhilHealth.
wao may mga 130 years old pala sa pinas galing naman ng database ng philhealth, hindi kayang iconfirm kung patay na o hindi
— EJ Atienza (@Denkus_Memeus) August 4, 2020
Comedian-writer and educator Ramon Bautista, meanwhile, shared a photo of Juan Ponce Enrile and quipped that he’s the only one who could live for 130 years long. The former Senate president is now 96 years old.
4,999 lang po ang kaduda-duda hihi pic.twitter.com/xOkDtJN3dc
— Ramon Bautista (@ramonbautista) August 4, 2020
Government agencies such as the Philippine Statistics Authority, the Social Security System and the Government Service Insurance System also have records that indicate whether a citizen in its database is living or not.
Other Filipinos cited these agencies and denounced PhilHealth’s failure to verify their members.
Some argued that the anomaly on “overaged members” does not matter as long as they are not claiming benefits and such disclosure may only be a diversion to other allegations against PhilHealth.
On the same inquiry, PhilHealth’s IT budget allegedly has questionable procurement costs of items such as laptops worth more than P100 million.
The major issues hounding PhilHealth over the years
Malacañang said that President Rodrigo Duterte’s trust and confidence in Morales still remained amid the corruption allegations.
However, Duterte still seeks to see the evidence presented against the former.
“If there’s evidence that would affect his trust and confidence, of course, it will change. And that’s why I’m hoping that these investigations will document the evidence that the President wants to see,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in an interview.
PhilHealth had faced multiple controversies and problems both internal and external in the past, which consequently affected its more than 41 million members and 93 million beneficiaries.
P15 billion stolen by PhilHealth executives
During the same Senate inquiry on Tuesday, Thorrsson Montes Keith, PhilHealth’s former anti-fraud legal officer, claimed that there’s a “widespread mafia” within the government-owned institution wherein executives supposedly stole around P15 billion from the agency.
“Naniniwala po ako na ang perang winaldas at ninakaw ay humigit kumulang ₱15 billion,” said Keith.
Overpriced test kits
Last May, Sen. Franklin Drilon flagged possible “overpriced” test kits from PhilHealth which the latter earmarked at P8,150 each.
Drilon noted that this was excessively pricier than the P1,500 commercially available test kits from China.
Keith recalled this incident and accused Morales of instructing him to talk to Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission Commissioner Greco Belgica about the pending case.
“Inutusan ako para hilutin ang kaso sa overpriced test kits,” Keith said.
Misuse of funds
In 2018, former health secretary Janette Garin, who is now a representative of Iloilo, and former budget secretary Florencio Abad were accused of diverting funds for senior citizens worth some P10.6 billion to be used for the 2016 campaign of Liberal Party candidates.
Prior to that, the agency in 2017 was also scrutinized over the P247.883 million worth of unauthorized allowances and benefits to its officials and employees from 2007 to 2009.
Dismissal of PhilHealth President Serna
In 2018, Duterte dismissed former PhilHealth President Celestina Ma. Jude dela Serna over questionable costly travel expenses she made in 2017.
Meanwhile, the health insurance firm reportedly incurred substantial losses at that time.