Sotto stresses importance of Senate probe on PhilHealth controversies; says at least 4 officials want to testify

Published July 25, 2020, 5:44 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

At least four officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) are reportedly going to testify in the Senate’s forthcoming investigation on the new allegations of corruption within the agency, Senate President Vicente Sotto said on Saturday, July 25.

Sen. Vicente Sotto III (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Sotto made this statement in a recent radio interview where he stressed the importance of probing the controversies hounding the state health insurer despite the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Ikinalulungkot ko na kung kailan nababalot sa pandemya ang bansa — di lang ang bansa, ang buong mundo — saka naman lumalabas ang mga issues na ito. Kaya lang di natin pwedeng isantabi, ‘di pupwede yong sinasabi ng iba na, ‘Hindi, iyong pandemic muna’. Eh papaanong gagawin natin, dahil may mga krimen o kababalaghan na nangyayari dahil may pandemic ‘di natin aasikasuhin? (I am saddened that these issues are coming out while we are facing a pandemic not only in the country, but the entire world. But we cannot set these aside, we cannot just say ‘No, let’s focus on the pandemic first’ like the others are saying. Just because there is a pandemic we will ignore all the crimes and mysteries that are happening),” he said in the DWIZ interview.

“We should really give this priority,” he said in Pilipino.

Sotto said Thorrsson Montes Keith, the anti-fraud legal officer who recently tendered his resignation from PhilHealth, had expressed interest in appearing before the Senate Committee of the Whole that would look into his claim of “widespread corruption” in the agency.

At least three more “officials” have also reached out to senators to speak about the alleged schemes in the PhilHealth, sources said.

Sotto, meanwhile, rejected the statement of PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales that Keith was only seeking vengeance after he was “refused a position for which he was not qualified.”

“Benggatibo? Ang tanong, eh ano kung benggatibo, kung nagsasabi ba ng totoo? Hindi excuse ‘yon, ‘wag mo gagamiting excuse, na ‘Kasi di namin napagbigyan kaya nagsasabi ng ganyan’. Ano ang sinasabi, totoo ba o hindi? Iyon ang sagutin mo (Vengeful? The question is, so what if he is vengeful, if he is saying the truth? That’s not an excuse, don’t use that as an excuse, that ‘We did not accommodate his wishes that’s why he was saying all those things’. But what was he saying, is it true or not, that is what you should answer),” he said of Morales.

“Benggatibo, mukhang ‘di magandang sagot yan, dahil parang ang nangyayari sabi nga sa commercial, mukhang guilty (‘Vengeful’ is quite not a good answer, because it would look like, as said in a commercial, that looks guilty),” he added.

The Senate chief, however, said Keith should also “straighten up” his responses to senators, noting some inconsistencies he has heard about the issue.

Senator Panfilo Lacson is set to file a resolution on Monday to ask the Senate to convene the Committee on the Whole to look into the alleged corruption schemes within the PhilHealth, which allegedly includes the mismanagement of funds as well as overpricing.

Sotto said he expects the PhilHealth to update the Senate on the developments of its investigation on the previous issues and complaints lodged against the agency and its officials. He said he still keeps receiving reports on the supposed unscrupulous activities in the state insurer.

READ MORE: Senate reso to unwrap ‘mind-blowing’ incidents of PhilHealth corruption