Lacson: PhilHealth’s over P14B IRM payments mean 600 plus counts of malversation
MANILA, Philippines — The more than P14 billion in “invalid and illegal” releases that were allegedly made by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) through its interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM) could be tantamount to over 600 counts of malversation, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Wednesday.
During the plenary session, Lacson cited the recent report of the Senate Committee of the Whole, which noted that PhilHealth made IRM fund releases to 632 health care institutions (HCIs) from March 25 to June 10 this year, amounting to over P14 billion.
According to the committee report, these releases are “invalid and illegal” since the memorandum circular for the IRM implementation only became effective on June 11.
“In relation to IRM and Article 217 (Malversation), there are at least 632 acts of malversation if we will follow the line of the committee report. Each act of malversation would constitute malversation of public funds,” Lacson said.
“Since there were 632 disbursements deemed illegal under the committee report, there are 632 cases of violation of Article 217… Each transaction or disbursement is covered by a [memorandum of agreement] between the HCI and PhilHealth so talagang (it’s really) separate act[s],” he explained.
According to Lacson, 339 of the 632 “acts of malversation” carries a penalty of life imprisonment since the amount of IRM fund released exceeded P8.8 million.
“There are 339 of the 632 involved amounts exceeding P8.8 million, raising penalties. The threshold amount eh ‘pag (if) more than P8.8 million, reclusion perpetua ‘yung (is the) penalty,” he pointed out.
The Senate Committee of the Whole has earlier recommended the filing of malversation as well as graft and corruption charges against Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and several other PhilHealth officials over the “improper and illegal” release of these IRM funds.
But Duque, who vowed to clear his name, dismissed the committee’s findings as “baseless” even saying it was made on mere allegations.
Duque said he was implicated with the IRM fund distribution when he “was not even part of the deliberation and did not sign the said resolution” that authorized it.
The IRM is an emergency cash advance measure of PhilHealth to provide hospitals with a crisis fund to respond to natural disasters, calamities as well as other unexpected events.
In the wake of controversies and allegations of favoritism in its implementation, PhilHealth suspended its IRM program although the state-run insurer has maintained that the scheme is “legal and necessary” for the country’s COVID-19 response.
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