The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) continued to deny on social media that its top executives pocketed P15 billion while an investigation into possible corruption is ongoing.
In a statement posted on its social accounts on August 6, PhilHealth President Ricardo Morales “categorically” denied “in strongest terms” the corruption allegations of Thorsson Montes Keith, PhilHealth’s former anti-fraud officer, against its top executives, wherein they supposedly stole a hefty P15 billion from the state-run insurance agency.
Keith made these claims during the hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on August 4.
No P15 billion pocketed by senior officials The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) categorically…
“The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) categorically denies in strongest terms that its senior officials have “pocketed” some P15 billion as alleged by Thorsson Keith during the Senate hearing on August 4, 2020,” Morales said.
Morales argued that Keith has no position to discuss office matters because he worked for the corporation for only nine months and that he only made these “malicious claims” after other officers rejected his application for a higher position.
The top official also made the same argument during the congressional hearing to discredit Keith’s accusations.
He also made an explanation about PhilHealth’s reimbursement program called the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism or IRM, which PhilHealth’s officials allegedly stole from during the lengthy Senate inquiry.
The IRM previously released to 711 health care facilities as part of PhilHealth’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
This was audited and accounted for properly and that there was no “favoritism” in the release of funds.
He also cited the cooperation of the Philippine Hospital Association for implementing the IRM to its members.
“Contrary to reports that hospitals no longer need to account for these funds, the IRM is governed by government accounting and auditing rules, hence, it is subject to liquidation by its recipients. The PhilHealth regional offices have been given the flexibility in the timing of liquidations recognizing the situations in each hospital,” Morales said.
Aside from the P15-billion alleged misused funds, PhilHealth’s IT budget for a new system also has questionable costs of items wherein one laptop was priced at P115.32 million.
PhilHealth, moreover, apparently failed to verify around 5,000 of its members who remained in its system registered to be 130 years old.
Signs of loss of confidence
Due to the long-term graft-related accusations that hounded the agency in the past, PhilHealth’s attempt to clear up its name online drew another round of backlash from the public.
A health reform advocate named Dr. Leonard Javier also retweeted an infographic from a local news outlet that enumerated the PhilHealth’s questionable budget.
— Leonard Javier ✊ #HealthForAll ⌬ (@STPbasileo) August 6, 2020
Sen. Joel Villanueva also expressed disappointment over the perceived inaction of the insurance company’s officials to hold accountable those involved in questionable practices.
“Personal ko pong nakita sa pagdinig ng Senado ang kawalan ng aksyon ng mga PhilHealth officials sa kurapsyon. Simula pa nga lang, tanggap na nilang inutil sila at walang magagawa,” he said.
“Mamuhi naman po tayo sa kurapsyon at huwag pumayag na hanggang ganito na lang tayong mga Pilipino,” he added.
Other Filipinos, meanwhile, observed that some politicians who are allied with President Rodrigo Duterte appeared to be silent about the Philhealth scandal while noisy about alleged violations of broadcast giant ABS-CBN Corp. prior to its failed franchise renewal.
Updates after the hearing
Rodolfo del Rosario, senior vice president for PhilHealth’s legal sector, announced to reporters that members of the state insurer’s executive committee will sue Keith for allegations he made before senators last Tuesday, August 4.
“Definitely we have seen na ang dami po niyang mga kasinungalingan na pinagsasabi,” Del Rosario said.
Vice President for Operations Augustus de Villa, however, officially stepped down on Thursday, August 6.
De Villa promised to continue cooperating in the next congressional hearings about the rampant irregularities in PhilHealth.
“Be assured that I will make myself available for the ongoing investigations in aid of legislation in both houses of Congress,” he said.