Sotto, Recto say PhilHealth may be given additional funds if it solves corruption

Published August 5, 2020, 9:16 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Lawmakers would be willing to replenish the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s funds if they are convinced that the alleged corruption in the agency has been eradicated, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Wednesday.

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

In an online interview with reporters, Sotto underscored the need to “clean up” the ranks of the PhilHealth before granting the state-run corporation the money it needs to supposedly continue operating.

During the Senate Committee of the Whole’s legislative inquiry on the claims of “widespread corruption” against the state health insurer, senators were told that PhilHealth is already running low on reserve funds due to the heavily decreased collections and increased payouts for the hospitalization of coronavirus patients.

Nerissa Santiago, acting senior vice president on actuarial services and risk management section of PhilHealth, said the agency could collapse by 2022 if the government fails to provide the additional subsidy.

“I think we have to clean it up first. We clean it up,” Sotto said when asked about PhilHealth’s warning.

Sotto specifically referred to PhilHealth’s top executives, particularly those involved in the procurements and reimbursements flagged by authorities.

“Sa taas muna, ‘yon ang kailangan linisin (We should clean up the top positions first). Grabe doon, eh,” he said. “‘Pag nangyari ‘yon, gaganahan ang Kongreso na tulungan sila (If that cleansing happens, then Congress would be willing to help them).”

“Ang importante, ‘yong mga may kontrobersyal na posisyon na may mga alegasyon, palitan mo at humanap ka ng mga ipapalit na mahirap i-corrupt. (What’s important is that those officials in controversial posts who are facing allegations are replaced by those who will not be corrupted),” he continued.

Contrary to the belief of some of his colleagues, he said the problem should be “corrected” from the top.

Sotto also allayed concerns about PhilHealth’s depleting funds as he cited the agency’s continuing collections from the premium contributions of its members, as well as their allocation from the collection of sin taxes.

This was also raised in the Tuesday’s hearing by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, who estimated that the PhilHealth should still have at least P60 billion in its coffers by next year.

“Hindi ako natatakot doon sa actuarial life, eh. (I am not afraid of the actuarial life projection because of the pandemic). Matatakot ako [para] sa actuarial life kung hanggang ngayon ay puro ganyan na korapsyon ang nangyayari. (I would rather fear for the actuarial life of PhilHealth if until now, we allow corruption to happen),” Sotto said on Wednesday.

“‘Pag hindi napigil ang korapsyon talagang dapat matakot tayo. (We should fear more if corruption is not eradicated). Ang sabi ko nga hindi mangigimi ang Kongreso na tulungan sila kung malinis sila (Like I said, Congress will not hesitate to help them if they are clean),” he said.

He said he also believes that the Duterte administration has several plans that might help the PhilHealth.

Malacanang on Tuesday assured PhilHealth of additional government subsidy to sustain its operations.