'Same old': Senators upset with appointment of new PhilHealth OIC | Inquirer News
De Jesus was in-charge of the controversial reimbursement mechanism

‘Same old’: Senators upset with appointment of new PhilHealth OIC

/ 05:43 PM August 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The appointment of Arnel de Jesus as officer-in-charge of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) following the resignation of former chief Ricardo Morales does not fully respond to the calls of people to rid the agency of corruption, opposition senators said.

Minority floor leader Senator Franklin Drilon said on Friday that De Jesus should have not been made to lead PhilHealth as he was in charge of the controversial interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM), which facilitated the release of emergency cash advances for COVID-19 treatment to some favored health institutions.

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The IRM was found to have been used for maternity and dialysis clinics and hospitals — both not intended to handle coronavirus patients despite the IRM funds being solely intended for COVID-19 response.

“I am deeply disappointed with the appointment of Mr. De Jesus as officer-in-charge of PhilHealth. As PhilHealth’s Chief Operation Officer, he implemented the questionable [IRM]. It must be remembered that he was the one who kept justifying the download of IRM funds to non-COVID-19 hospitals such as dialysis and maternity clinics,” Drilon said in a statement.

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“His actions and poor professional judgment were so evident during the hearings of the Committee of the Whole on PhilHealth. He is the one who said that liquidation is ‘optional,’ when PhilHealth should have required hospitals to liquidate the funds immediately as required by COA rules. He signed the illegal liquidation memorandum circular which gave too much discretion to regional directors, which resulted in this financial mess and corruption,” he added.

Drilon further noted that with De Jesus’ appointment, the public should expect the same allegations of corruption.  Instead, what the national government should have done is to clean PhilHealth for it to better respond to the health crisis.

“It is going to be the same old story of corruption and incompetence,” he said.  “He is not the right man to lead PhilHealth.”

“What PhilHealth needs now is a cleansing process. We need someone with unblemished credibility, with zero tolerance for corruption and with high regard for accountability, of which Mr. de Jesus really fell short and is really unqualified,” he added.

De Jesus was designated OIC on Thursday following Morales’ resignation, as President Rodrigo Duterte advised the latter to resign to focus on his health.

Morales was at the receiving end of accusations of irregularities within PhilHealth, which stemmed from revelations that an official resigned due to the gravity of the corruption.

The official, who eventually turned out to be anti-fraud officer Thorrsson Montes Keith, revealed in a Senate hearing that a syndicate within PhilHealth managed to fatten their pockets with P15 billion due to schemes perpetrated by PhilHealth officials themselves.

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Aside from this, it was also revealed that PhilHealth procured several items like software and gadgets at a grossly overpriced rate — for example, an Adobe Master Collection Set priced at less than P200,000 was purchased for P21 million.

Meanwhile, Senator Francis Pangilinan said that the right move would have been to fire Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, as well and fix the country’s healthcare systems, for it to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Duque currently heads the Department of Health and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) — both agencies critical to the government’s COVID-19 response.

“The public clamor is for the replacement of Duque, both as health secretary and head of the IATF, the primary drivers of the government pandemic response,” Pangilinan said in a statement.

“Lagpas 200,000 na ang may COVID. Mag-aanim na buwan na simula nang ideklara ang health emergency. Milyon-milyon na ang nawalan ng trabaho. Bilyon-bilyon pa ang ninanakaw sa kaban ng bayan. Bakit parang band-aid lang ang lunas?” he asked.

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TAGS: 2019-nCoV, Arnel de Jesus, COVID-19, Department of Health, GCQ, general community quarantine, lockdown, Officer in Charge, Philhealth, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), Ricardo Morales, Secretary Francisco Duque III, Senate, Senator Francis Pangilinan, Senator Franklin Drilon
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