18th Congress to probe PhilHealth scam 

By Ellson Quismorio

The "ghost patient scam" of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) should be looked into by the House of Representatives, says the current chairman of the Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability.

Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus “XJ” Romualdo (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN) Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus “XJ” Romualdo (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

"The committee could look into it but we'll have to wait until the 18th Congress begins its session and the House has organized its committees," said reelected Camiguin lone district Rep. Xavier Jesus "XJ" Romualdo regarding the multi-billion peso controversy.

"But the next Congress should definitely look into the matter in the exercise of its oversight powers on the implementation of the National Health Insurance Act, the forthcoming implementation of the Universal Health Care Act, and of course the use, or rather misuse, of public funds," said Romualdo, who is a lawyer.

The Mindanao solon served as the Good Government panel chairman during the third regular session of the just-concluded 17th Congress.

The House is now transitioning for the 18th Congress, where the young Romualdo could theoretically keep his post.

It had been reported that PhilHealth lost as much as P154 billion in funds since 2013 through the bogus dialysis of ghost patients. This has robbed indigent patients the chance to avail of the treatment.

READ MORE:  'Ghost dialysis' blamed on corruption at Philhealth

While the scam was facilitated by unscrupulous health service providers, it is believed that this would not have been possible without the presence of cohorts within PhilHealth itself.

President Rodrigo Duterte responded to this by ordering a reorganization of the state firm, which his congressmen-allies have supported.

"I think that the President is right in reorganizing PhilHealth because of the problem of fake claims and ghost patients. The processing and payment of claims for ghost patients would only happen if PhilHealth officials and employees are in on it," Romualdo said.

"Reorganizing PhilHealth would certainly disrupt the operations of those inside who are involved and put an immediate stop to them," he added.

Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte agrees. "This multibillion-peso scam has obviously thrived through the sheer incompetence or connivance of certain PhilHealth execs nationwide," he said.

"The President is correct to point out that this issue is big because public funds are involved. This scam should not go unpunished," noted the Bicol solon, who was also reelected during the May polls.

Romualdo further called the reorganization effort "a very commendable first step in the administration's anti-corruption drive in PhilHealth because it has the effect of promptly ceasing the corrupt activity."

"A comprehensive investigation into the matter should then follow to determine the whole extent of the problem and who are involved and then of course, the institution of criminal actions against those responsible," he stressed.