Destruction of PhilHealth evidence feared
Several senators expressed fear on Friday that the ceiling leaks in the regional office of Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) in Pangasinan province may have been deliberately done to destroy evidence about the massive fraud that a government task force is now investigating.
“There is enough reason to suspect that the destruction of documents and records caused by the roof leaks in the PhilHealth’s regional office… was intentional,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson told the Inquirer in a Viber message.
Commissioner Greco Belgica of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) said he had already ordered an investigation into the damage in PhilHealth’s regional office in Dagupan City, which was allegedly caused by a downpour on Thursday.
But Lacson, who had initiated the Senate probe into the corruption mess rocking the state-run insurance firm, said he had advised a PACC investigator, who happened to be in the area when the incident happened, to ask for help from the National Bureau of Investigation to check “if force was applied to cause the water leaks.”
The NBI has had experience investigating the PhilHealth regional office last year after the emergence of what appeared to be “double claims” reported by Dr. Francisco Soria, then acting senior vice president of PhilHealth’s health finance policy sector.
A random pick drew the name of a certain Pamela Dizon-Del Rosario who was listed as a frequent claimant. She turned out to be a sister of PhilHealth regional executive Maria Erilene Dizon-Zarate and the NBI uncovered bogus claims amounting to millions of pesos.
Lacson said he was later informed that the PACC investigator on the scene had to be secured by NBI agents because of threats from still unidentified persons in the area.
NBI chief Eric Distor confirmed that the bureau was ordered by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to watch for possible destruction of evidence at the Pangasinan office but he declined to elaborate.
Lacson noted that the PhilHealth regional unit had just moved to the new office seven months ago after an Inquirer report about the state insurance company’s rental of a building owned by the family of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, also located in Dagupan.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said it appeared that the so-called “mafia” in PhilHealth “has called on the cleaners.”
“That wouldn’t be surprising at all,” Sen. Francis Pangilinan said.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri also warned that somebody could be trying to “cover up” the involvement of some PhilHealth officials in the Ilocos region.
“We urge the NBI to get to the bottom of (this) to see if the roof leak was deliberately done to obstruct the ongoing investigations,” Zubiri said.
As senators pushed their investigation of scams in PhilHealth, a private dialysis center embroiled in the scandal maintained on Friday that all its dealings with the state insurer were “aboveboard.”
B. Braun Avitum Philippines Inc. insisted that contrary to Lacson’s claims, it had secured a registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Jan. 24, 2002, under its previous name, Philippine Renal Care Inc., and denied that it had replaced WellMed Dialysis Center as a conduit of errant PhilHealth personnel in facilitating the benefit claims of “ghost” dialysis patients.
“B. Braun Avitum has absolutely no ‘ghost (dialysis) machines’ in any of the center we operate,” the company said in a statement.
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