Resigned PhilHealth officer asks Senate for legislative immunity for testimonies in committee probe

Resigned Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) anti-fraud officer Thorrsson Keith has asked for legislative immunity in relation to the ongoing Senate inquiry on the alleged corruption in the state health insurer.

Resigned Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) anti-fraud officer Thorrsson Keith

Keith, on August 6, wrote to Senate President Vicente Sotto III to ask for protection against prosecution and penalties for his testimonies and the documents that he will submit during the Committee of the Whole's investigation on the reported irregularities in the PhilHealth.

The request came after top PhilHealth officials threatened to file libel charges against Keith.

Keith initially claimed that there is "widespread corruption" in the government health insurance firm. His resignation prompted the congressional inquiries and investigation on the allegedly anomalous transactions by the PhilHealth.

During the Senate hearing, he alleged that members of the agency's executive committee were part of the so-called "mafia" which has allegedly been defrauding the PhilHealth for several years. He said the group pocketed some P15 billion of  funds through various schemes.

In the letter given by Senate sources to media on Saturday, Keith also asked the Committee of the Whole to "recall the threatening language used by those identified as members of the syndicate".

Aside from the immunity, he likewise requested for security "considering that billions of Philippine money is involved" and that "there had been various physical threats" against him. He said an unidentified person was asking for his location.

Keith said that in the next Senate hearing he will be releasing statements and documents to prove his corruption claims against the high-level officials of PhilHealth.

Before Keith, PhilHealth board member Alejandro Cabading had also asked for legislative immunity from the Senate. It was Cabading who identified four senior officials as part of the alleged PhilHealth “mafia."

Senator Panfilo Lacson, vice chairman of the Senate Committee of the Whole, said he will move for the grant of the legislative immunity to both Cabading and Keith.

"Nang sa ganoon freewheeling ang kanilang testimony lalo pa may banta na ganyan (So that they could give freewheeling testimonies despite such threats). Hindi na bago ang ganiyang banta eh (Those threats aren't the first)...I think we owe it to them kasi nag-volunteer sila ng mga dokumento at information, na bigyan naman sila ng certain amount of legal protection ng Senado (to give them a certain amount of legal protection from the Senate since they volunteered to provide documents and information)," Lacson said in an interview with radio DWIZ.

Earlier, Sotto said that the Senate will be willing to give witnesses the protection they need so they could shed light to the controversies hounding the PhilHealth.

Lacson said "new witnesses" are expected to attend next week's hearing.