Lizada says CSC chair issued ‘guidance’ to keep info on PhilHealth cases | Inquirer News
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Lizada says CSC chair issued ‘guidance’ to keep info on PhilHealth cases

/ 11:46 AM August 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Pressed by lawmakers during a hearing in the House of Representatives, Commissioner Aileen Lizada on Tuesday claimed there was “guidance” from the Civil Service Commission (CSC) chair to withhold information on cases involving Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) officials.

In the joint hybrid hearing of the House committee on public accounts and the committee on good government and public accountability, CSC officials were asked about cases filed before the CSC against PhilHealth executives.

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But as lawmakers quizzed CSC officials, they pointed out how “basic” questions—such as the number of pending cases involving PhilHealth officials—are not being answered particularly by CSC Assistant Commissioner Ariel Ronquillo.

Later, as Lizada was being questioned, Anakalusugan Partylist Rep. Mike Defensor, chair of the House committee on public accounts, asked Lizada if there is any move to “suppress information” in the investigation.

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“I’ll be straight to the point, pasensya na po kayo Commissioner at hindi ko naman nilalahat. Pero meron po bang pagkilos o galaw na i-suppress ang information dito sa imbestigasyon ng Kongreso at isa pang opisina ng gobyerno?” Defensor asked.

“Meron bang move to suppress information and not to give it to this committee? Please be honest, Commissioner Lizada,” the lawmaker further asked.

In response, Lizada said there was a “guidance” regarding the concern.

“We had a meeting ever since lumabas ‘yung memorandum ng Presidente. Right away we had a virtual meeting and yes, Sir, may guidance regarding ‘yung concern niyo. May guidance po,” Lizada said.

Grilled further if this “guidance” means keeping information on the matter, Lizada said: “Yes.”

When Lizada was asked where the directive was coming from, she said it is from “the other member of the commission.”

Defensor then noted that only one person in the commission can order other commissioners and administratively supervise and control the other employees of the agency, apparently pointing to CSC chairperson Alicia Dela Rosa-Bala.

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Asked if he is correct, Lizada said: “Yes, sir.” Lizada would later categorically explain that it is actually Bala who gave the guidance to suppress information.

Lizada also said that the guidance was recorded via audio but not included in the minutes of their meeting.

“That’s one of my concerns, I didn’t move for the approval of the minutes kasi the declaration was not recorded in the minutes but the audio says otherwise. That’s why we’re preparing for a memo for the correction of the minutes,” Lizada said.

“If my recollection serves me right, ‘this information should not be made public nor should be given out to anyone who would be asking either in aid of legislation or investigation’. Parang ganun ang natandaan ko,” Lizada added when asked about Bala’s exact words regarding the supposed “guidance”.

But Ronquillo refuted Lizada’s claims that such directives were given.

“I am under oath and categorically I will say that I did not hear that guidance being given by the chair during a meeting which I was in attendance,” Ronquillo said.

“I am present in all of the commission’s meetings except if I am sent elsewhere but normally I am present in the commission meeting and in all the meetings I attended, I did not hear that kind of guidance being given by the chairperson,” Ronquillo added.

Lizada then chimed in to “refresh” Ronquillo’s memory.

“Allow me to refresh the memory of Assistant Commissioner Ronquillo. When the chairman gave the guidance, ang kausap niya and the one you can hear sa recording ay is AsCom. Ronquillo,” Lizada said.

“She mentioned about the policy na isama sa data sharing and it was AsCom. Ronquillo na kausap niya. And you can hear it from the audiotape, ‘Yes, Ma’am, yes Ma’am’,” she added.

The committees later moved to subpoena the audio recording of the minutes of the meeting and cite CSC officials in contempt if proven that there was such guidance not to cooperate in the House investigation.

PhilHealth is currently facing a probe in the House of Representatives over alleged irregularities in the agency.

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