Duterte fires PhilHealth chief

Published June 5, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

By Argyll Geducos

President Duterte has sacked Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) chief Celestina Ma. Jude dela Serna due to her excessive trips less than a week after firing yet another official.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte

Dela Serna was dismissed almost a month after Duterte ordered the investigation for her travels amounting to P627,293.04 in just one year amid the agency’s massive net income loss amounting to P8.92 billion based on its 2017 unaudited financial statement posted online.

Duterte appointed PhilHealth board member Dr. Roy Ferrer to take over the position vacated by Dela Serna. Ferrer, in a text message, confirmed his new post and said that he will do his best to effectively carry out the mandate of PhilHealth.

“I will do my best to be an effective public servant and to carry out the mandate of PHIC and PRRD [has] given me,” he said.

Based on documents, Duterte approved the nomination of Ferrer to be PhilHealth’s acting president on June 1, 2018.

Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito welcomed President Duterte’s decision to designate a new PhilHealth head.

But Ejercito, Senate Health and Demography Committee chief,expressed hope that the President would designate a permanent PhilHealth chief, one that has financial and actuarial expertise.

“Been requesting that the President appoint a financial expert with actuarial knowledge as PhilHealth means management of funds. With PhilHealth’s current situation, we really need a financial wiz to fix all its troubles,” Ejercito said in a text message. “Not to undermine the capabilities of doctors but we really need a financial expert at this point,” Ejercito added.

Last month, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte ordered a probe on PhilHealth to fully implement a universal healthcare in the country.

“If PhilHealth will not clean their ranks, the universal healthcare will not be realized,” he said then.

Only last week, Duterte fired newly appointed Customs (BOC) Deputy Commissioner Noel Prudente for his supposed excessive travels to Singapore and Europe.

For the past five months, Duterte has been in a firing spree of government officials for alleged corruption and other abuses in office, these include those officials who have excessive travels.

“To date, I have fired almost lahatkilalako and sadly, ito ‘yungmgatao nag-udyoksa akin –nandoonakosa Davao, pinupuntahanako, pinepesteako [To date, I have fired almost everyone I know and sadly, these were the people who convince me to run. I was in Davao then and they went there and pestered me,”Duterte said while in South Korea on an official visit.

“So to date, I have fired about 30,” he said.

Addressing the Filipino community in South Korea last Sunday, the President said he has removed officials involved in certain irregularities, including excessive foreign travels.

Duterte said he was hurt that many of these sacked officials convinced him to run in the last presidential elections.

He had earlier explained that he has nothing against foreign trips especially if it would benefit the country. However, he has a different opinion on lavish travels that has little or no effect to the country at all. He also said that excessive and unnecessary foreign trips are a waste taxpayers’ money and it slows down the function of the government.

Last January, Duterte fired for frequent foreign trips Maritime Industry Authority administrator Marcial Amaro III. He said Amaro’s 24 foreign trips were excessive.

Duterte had also fired all high officials of the Presidential Commission on Urban Poor (PCUP) for failing to meet as a collegial body and for making unnecessary junkets, and also former Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chairperson Patricia Licuanan.

Also on January, the Office of the Executive Secretary issued a memorandum order prohibiting all government officials under the executive branch to make foreign trips, except when they travel at their own expense, and if the country will greatly benefit from the said foreign trips. (With reports from Genalyn D. Kabiling and Hannah L. Torregoza)