Are they dead or alive? 5K members aged 130 are in PhilHealth database
MANILA, Philippines — About 5,000 members of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp., who are 130 years old, remain in its database and nobody knows if they are dead or still alive.
PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales made this disclosure on Tuesday as he justified the agency’s information technology (IT) project, which is now tainted with corruption allegations.
“Kaya pa ba? Kaya mo pa bang pigilan itong corruption?” Senator Christopher “Bong” Go asked Morales during the hearing of the Senate on Tuesday.
(Can you still do it? Can you still stop corruption?)
Morales answered in the affirmative but only if their IT program would push through.
“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.
(The IT System Development program is not improving. That’s the main reason. Because that can address the issues about corruption.)
“So kung ito at makakakuha tayo ng sapat na budget for IT, maiimplement ito, mare-reduce natin significantly yung ating fraud,” he added.
(So if we can get a budget to implement the IT project, we can significantly reduce fraud.)
With the planned IT program, Morales said, PhilHealth could clean up its database and identify those members who are still active.
“Ang ating membership database, we have 109 million members. Pagka meron ho tayong information system may biometrics ho tayo. Hindi ho pwedeng magkamali sa identity ng member. Alam din ho natin kung buhay yung member,” he said.
(In our membership database, we have 109 members. If we have an information system, then we have biometrics. We can’t be wrong with the identity of a member. We also know if a member is alive.)
“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 added.
(For example, we now have 5,000 members that, according to our database, are 130 years old. We can’t take them out because we don’t have documents to show that they are dead already.)
But Senate President Vicente Sotto III pointed out that the corruption allegation is with the agency’s procurement.
Responding to this, Morales said, “Kung malaki ho ang budget natin, pati procurement ho outsource natin yan. Ang kukunin ho natin mga Google saka Microsoft. Ito ho mga players na ito, hindi ho papayag ito na magkakamali kami.”
(If we have a big budget, then let’s also outsource the procurement. Let’s get Google and Microsoft. These players will not allow us to commit errors.)
Morales’ answer did not sit well, however, with Senator Panfilo Lacson, who agreed with Sotto that the problem is with the procurement.
“Because how can we believe you kung ang overpricing nyo, yung 62,000 pre-presyuhan nyo ng 320,000?” Lacson said.
“Actually, we’re discussing with our colleagues, how will we give you billions in subsidy sa Bayanihan 2 e kung yung procurement…,” Lacson said referring to the measure that would fund the country’s virus response and recovery plan.
The measure was just passed last week by the Senate but it has yet to get the approval of the House of Representatives.
“Imagine P62, 424 ang overpricing nyo grabe. Kung ginawa nyong P70,000, P75,000 baka magpikit na lang kami ng mata pero P320,000?” Lacson asked.
(If you made it P70,000, P75,000 we might have ignored it, but P320,000?)
It was Sotto and Lacson who initiated the Senate investigation on the alleged widespread corruption within the PhilHealth, including the reported overpricing of the agency’s information technology project.[ac]
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