Palace says Duterte not likely to fire PhilHealth officials over ghost treatment controversy

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang said that it was unlikely that President Duterte will fire any board member of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) after the Chief Executive expressed his full trust and confidence on them over the weekend.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN) Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo

In his Monday press briefing, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo confirmed that Duterte will meet with PhilHealth officials Monday afternoon, but doubts that he will be firing any of them.

"Hindi natin alam ang mangyayari, nasa presidente lahat 'yan (We do not know what will happen, it's up to President Duterte). But given that he's publicly acknowledged his trust in the president, I don't think there will be ," he said.

"Kung magkakasabay sila , siguro, magkakasama silang... may tiwala ang Presidente (If all of them are appointed at the same time, then the President trusts all of them), unless one or two or some of them have been involved," he added.

In an interview in Davao City on Saturday, Duterte defended acting PhilHealth President Roy Ferrer, saying he did not think that the latter had any role in the fraud.

Panelo then acknowledged the efforts of PhilHealth for cleaning up their agency, saying they may report the developments during their meeting with Duterte in Malacañang.

"The PhilHealth board has been conducting an investigation and has, in fact, filed several administrative complaints. They're the ones cleaning PhilHealth," he said.

"Siguro magrereport sila, 'di ba (Maybe they will present their findings since) he (President Duterte) instructed them to make a comprehensive report on what is happening in PhilHealth," he added.

Over the weekend, President Duterte said he will be looking for any possibility that government men were involved in the fraudulent claims, particularly in the claims made by WellMed Dialysis and Laboratory Center for patients who are already dead.

According to Panelo, it was unlikely that PhilHealth board members were involved in the said scheme.

"If there is any connivance, it would be doon sa baba (there at the bottom of the pyramid). But let's wait for the investigation," he said.

He, however, said that reshuffling in the agency was still a possibility.

"Depende siguro sa report ng PhilHealth board, kung anong kailangang reorganization (Maybe it will depend on PhilHealth's report what kind of reorganization is needed)," Panelo said.

"He (President Duterte) certainly wants to clean up the alleged irregularities in the PhilHealth," he added.

On Saturday, President Duterte said that he was looking into reshuffling PhilHealth officials following the loss they suffered due to fraudulent claims.

"For the sheer amount that was lost, I have to reorganize your entity, change maybe all of you, install a more... systems of accounting and accountability," Duterte said.

"Bakit umabot ng ganoon kalaki (Why did it come to that amount) without the necessary checks along the way? When it becomes clear that the amount is getting big, somebody should look somewhere. I really do not know how to do it, I am not a systems analyst," he added.

"Was there a kind of checks that you installed because if none, then we have fallen short of our duty to really protect the money," he continued.

Duterte also said he cannot wait 20 days for PhilHealth to finish its probe and ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to arrest the owner of WellMed Dialysis and Laboratory Center.

UHC suspension thumbed down

Meanwhile, Panelo also thumbed down the suggestion of lawyer and former Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque to suspend the implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) amid the controversies in PhilHealth.

"Hindi magandang idea kasi (It is not a good idea because) common sense will tell you that you if stop an operation of a public service outfit then you affect the entire service," Panelo said.

"If the problem is irregularity, you solve the irregularity. You don’t stop the operation. You don’t burn the house because there’s so many rats there," he added.