Senator to seek probe on ‘widespread corruption’ at PhilHealth
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Panfilo Lacson on Friday announced that he will seek a Senate investigation on the alleged widespread corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) as he disclosed the alleged P1 billion worth of “questionable transactions.”
“The shouting match in a recent virtual conference between the PHIC president and CEO and some board members involving almost P1B worth of questionable transactions including a total overprice of P98M – if true, says it all,” Lacson said in a text message, referring to the latest controversy at PhilHealth that allegedly prompted one of its officials to resign.
“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,” he added.
Lacson said he and Senate President Vicente Sotto III, as well as some senators from the majority bloc have been discussing the “unabated corruption and mismanagement” of PhilHealth funds “for quite some time now.”
“The COVID-19 crisis makes it more disgusting and abominable. Needless to say, there is urgency that the Senate has to act on the matter immediately,” he also said.
In a statement, Lacson said senators had high hopes that the “shenanigans” at PhilHealth would end with a new leadership when the Senate investigated issues surrounding the agency and the Department of Health, such as the DOH contacts with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III’s family-owned Doctors Pharmaceuticals Inc., the renting of a building owned by Duque by a PhilHealth regional office, and Duque’s “pattern of failure” that prompted 14 senators to file a resolution seeking his resignation.
“Sad to say, how wrong we were,” said Lacson.
Ricardo Morales, a retired Army general, was appointed to lead PhilHealth in June 2019 after President Rodrigo Duterte sought the resignation of its former chief Roy Ferrer and six board members following the controversy on “ghost dialysis” treatments, overpayments and other alleged fraudulent practices.
In a separate statement, Senator Bong Go, chair of the Senate committee on health, said he supports calls for a Senate investigation on the matter, as he called on the PhilHealth leadership to “shape up or ship out.”
He noted that the Senate has already conducted a number of hearings regarding issues on PhilHealth and that the agency has been hounded by controversies even when he was not yet a lawmaker.
“Enough is enough. I call on the PhilHealth leadership to put a stop on these issues of anomalies within its ranks. Once and for all, shape up or ship out!” he said.
He added that the supposed continuous problem of corruption in the agency – that should be ensuring universal healthcare access for Filipinos – should not be overlooked especially during a public health emergency.
“As chair of the Senate Committee on Health and as co-chair of the Congressional Oversight Committee on the implementation of the UHC law, we have to ensure the prudent use of PhilHealth funds and guarantee that every Filipino family gets appropriate, accessible, affordable, and quality health services while being protected from financial burden due to sickness,” said Go.
In an interview on ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo, Morales claimed that lawyer Thorrsson Montes Keith, the official who had resigned, was only being “vengeful” after he was supposedly denied a position he was applying for at the agency.
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