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Faces of the News: Aug. 2, 2020

/ 05:02 AM August 02, 2020

ILLUSTRATION BY RENE ELEVERA

Ricardo Morales

Just over a year after he assumed the top post at Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), retired Brig. Gen. Ricardo Morales faces the same allegations that led to a revamp in the state insurance company in the first place.

Resigned antifraud legal officer Thorrsson Montes Keith tagged Morales as “the new leader of the syndicate” at PhilHealth. Keith alleged that Morales was behind supposed irregularities in the implementation of PhilHealth’s P30-billion Interim Reimbursement Mechanism that was meant to support hospitals responding to the new coronavirus pandemic.

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Morales, in turn, disputed Keith’s claims, saying all fund releases were “above board.”

He also called Keith a “bad loser” and a “vengeful” employee trying to get a post “he was not qualified” for.

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President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Morales to the post in June 2019 after firing Philhealth’s top officials, including then president Roy Ferrer, following the Inquirer’s investigative report on the various schemes employed by erring health facilities to defraud the state insurer of billions.

—Jovic Yee

Thorrsson Montes Keith

Lawyer Thorrsson Montes Keith stirred up a hornet’s nest when he quit his post as antifraud legal officer of Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) due to “widespread corruption” — an allegation that its president and CEO, Ricardo Morales, flatly denied.

Keith’s claims about the allegedly irregular P2.1-billion information technology project and the supposed irregular disbursement of a P30-billion special fund for hospitals treating COVID-19 patients had also been flagged by the Commission on Audit and the state insurer’s own auditors.

In a letter to Morales on July 26, the lawyer accused his erstwhile boss of acting as “coddler” or “new leader” of a “syndicate” that had been perpetrating fraudulent schemes in PhilHealth. Keith’s allegations prompted Malacañang, the Senate and the House to launch separate inquiries.

Keith also spoke against PhilHealth’s plan to compel overseas Filipino workers earning P10,000 to P60,000 a month to pay 3 percent of their salaries as premium despite the pandemic, saying the move was unconstitutional. —Marlon Ramos

Angel Locsin

Actress Angel Locsin is making headlines again for chiding fellow Kapamilyas who kept quiet rather than speak out against the congressional vote that led to the shutdown of ABS-CBN. In a social media post, Locsin twitted network-grown celebrities who preferred to “look cute on Instagram” while failing to “empathize with your fellow workers.”

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She also trained her guns on the government that she believes is failing miserably in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In another post, Locsin asked leaders to “make sure you have plans” for employees and business owners who lost their income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her outspokenness has provoked online bashers. This forced the actress to push back with a threat to trace one of them and tell on his family and employer.

In a bid to humiliate her, trolls replied by posting photos of Locsin’s much curvier figure.

Fans, however, were quick to show support for the two-time holder of FHM Philippines’ “sexiest woman” title. They insist the “real-life Darna,” who defends the marginalized off-screen, has nothing to prove.

—Marinel Cruz

Leni Robredo

In a 23-minute speech, Vice President Leni Robredo laid down suggestions to improve the government’s COVID-19 response as well as a comprehensive road map for the country during and after the public health crisis.

Her speech, just two days after President Duterte’s much-criticized State of the Nation Address, called for the creation of data-driven policies and more support for health-care facilities and workers.

She also asked for better treatment for locally stranded individuals and assistance for students and teachers transitioning to “blended” or distance learning.

Robredo belied the claim often made by the President’s allies that Filipinos are stubborn, saying she has witnessed the courage and willingness of everyone to help each other during the crisis.

Since the community quarantine began in March, Robredo’s office has been busy with its own COVID-19 response, providing protective equipment, food, accommodation and transportation to front-liners in Metro Manila and Cebu, earning her the moniker “BusyPresidente” on social media.

—Jhesset O. Enano

Franklin Drilon

Senate opposition leader Sen. Franklin Drilon found himself in the spotlight during President Rodrigo Duterte’s penultimate State of the Nation Address.

Duterte’s attacks on Drilon bookended his nearly two-hour long speech, which many had expected to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The President devoted a significant amount of time accusing Drilon of defending the Lopezes from allegations that they were oligarchs.

The senator was also tagged a hypocrite for calling for a ban on political dynasties to dismantle the oligarchy.  Duterte even linked him to Manila Water Co. Inc.’s allegedly onerous water concession contract with the government.

Drilon insists he did not defend the Lopezes and had only spoken up for press freedom when the franchise rejection of ABS-CBN was discussed.

He also said he had long been opposing political dynasties and has no other relative in elective office. The senator also made it clear that he was not involved in drafting any water concession contract. The President’s statements were unexpected, but Drilon said he stands for what he believes is necessary.

—Leila B. Salaverria

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TAGS: Angel Locsin, Faces of the News, Franklin Drilon, Leni Robredo, Ricardo Morales, Thorrsson Montes Keith
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