Senators believe there is ‘turf war’ within PhilHealth
MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon believes that there are two factions within the embattled Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) — one engaged in corrupt practices and one trying to expose such anomalies.
“There are two groups fighting… Everybody is put on guard because the desk next to you can squeal on you so you try to do your job in the best way you can,” Drilon told reporters in an online interview with reporters on Wednesday.
“The faction would result in inefficiency. On the other hand, it can also be a source of people making public as what they see as malpractices in the institution,” he added.
Drilon said he suspected that PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales had “wittingly or unwittingly” favored one of the factions.
“Therefore, that is not a very good indication of his leadership in PhiHealth,” the senator said.
According to Drilon, Morales is facing a “challenge” over the apparent divide within the agency.
“He should take strong and aggressive measures. My suspicion, he is siding with one group… it is quite obvious that the bureaucracy is split in PhilHealth,” the Senate minority leader said.
On the questioning of Sen. Risa Hontiveros during Tuesday’s Senate hearing on fresh allegations of corruption in PhilHealth, Morales tagged two regional vice presidents as having “inordinate influence” in the agency.
The two names Morales mentioned were among the eight officials tagged by former PhilHealth President Roy Ferrer during a Senate hearing last year as part of the alleged “Mindanao group” leading a “mafia” purportedly responsible for aiding hospitals in defrauding the state health insurer of billions of pesos, as well as orchestrating the ouster of former PhilHealth presidents.
But resigned PhilHealth anti-fraud officer Thorrson Montes Keith and incumbent board member Alejandro Cabading, the Senate’s current witnesses testifying against alleged anomalies in the state insurer, claimed the officials previously named as part of the Mindanao group no longer had an opportunity to steal and were actually the “good guys.”
PhilHealth Senior Vice President for the Legal Sector Rodolfo del Rosario, one of the resource persons in Tuesday’s hearing, however, stood by Ferrer’s claim.
“The people that were named by Doctor Ferrer, they were the ones. When we inventoried cases, there were cases pending against them. There were cases that remained unacted on for the longest time,” Del Rosario had said.
Keith and Cabading had earlier tagged PhilHealth’s executive committee, which Del Rosario is a member of, as part of the mafia-like syndicate in the agency.
Del Rosario and the rest of the execom members denied the allegations.
Asked in a television interview on Wednesday about what seemed to be conflicting versions of the so-called “PhilHealth mafia,” Hontiveros said there was a “concerted attempt to confuse.”
“I think that’s what’s really going on — along with fake news, there are speculations,” she said, speaking partly in Filipino. “There was really a concerted attempt to confuse and to throw the public off the track. Maybe there’s not just one mafia, right? Maybe there’s more than one group, more than one so-called mafia.”
“Yesterday, I said what I was getting was a sense like Alice in Wonderland — curiouser and curiouser — because their pointing fingers at each other, and this goes way beyond mere misunderstanding,” she added.
Similar to Drilon, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said there was a “turf war” within the agency.
“It’s a well-acknowledged fact that there’s a mafia inside PhilHealth,” he in a separate interview with reporters.
“They say its a turf war. There are allegedly two groups inside. But the group that’s heading it now, they say it’s the mafia,” he added.
More information regarding these groups, Zubiri said, would be unraveled in the next hearing of the Senate on the PhilHealth mess on Aug. 18.
“We’ll know more about that in the next hearing because I think there will be PhilHealth officials who would testify on the groups — this so-called mafia inside PhilHealth,” he added.
Drilon said some proof would still have to be presented that Morales was directly involved in the corruption going on in PhilHealth.
President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Morales, a retired Army brigadier general, as PhilHealth president and CEO in July 2019 to supposedly rid the agency of corruption.
“Let me make it clear. There is no evidence that Morales is directly involved in any of these shenanigans that are being unearthed,” the senator said.
“It is also clear to me that the people around him are doing something else. In the street language, napapaikutan si Mr. Morales [Mr. Morales is being deceived]. He should take stock of this,” he added.
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