Impose preventive suspension on PhilHealth officials accused of fraud, Sen. Go urges

Published August 12, 2020, 4:03 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Senator Christopher Lawrence ‘’Bong’’ Go has proposed the preventive suspension of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) officials accused of committing fraud to protect the integrity of the investigation to be conducted by the Task Force led by the Department of Justice. 

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go

Go, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, sought an honest-to-goodness investigation into the allegations of widespread corruption within the PhilHealth during the second hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole yesterday. 

He also proposed a review of existing policies and possibly amending the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees to allow preventive suspension prior to the start of an investigation in order to prevent any undue influence.

When questioned by Go, PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales assured the agency’s cooperation in assisting the Task Force’s investigation and providing all relevant data and information needed in the Senate inquiry.

Morales also expressed their openness to submit to lifestyle checks and other investigations of the government. 

“[President Morales], continue working and cooperate please with the investigation of the task force. Tulungan niyo po (help them). I know you mean well. Nilagay kayo diyan ng Pangulo para linisin ang PhilHealth. Halos taon-taon tayong nag iimbestiga dito at wala pa rin pong nangyayari. Dapat talaga meron masuspende at ma-audit lahat,” Go said. You were placed there by the President to clean PhilHealth. The probe into alleged malpractices at PhilHealth is being underttaken almost every year and nothing is being achieved. There should be suspensions. They all should be audited.

Last year, Go requested the Commission on Audit (COA) to conduct a special audit on PhilHealth’s funds and submit their findings to the Office of the Ombudsman.

COA chairman Michael Aguinaldo said their efforts have been delayed by quarantine measures which prevented their auditors from accessing PhilHealth’s offices. 

“We have about four or five ongoing (audits).  Two of them in combination with the [National Bureau of Investigation]. ‘Yun po ang mga fraud and fictitious claims on audit. We have one with the Insurance Commission for actuarial life. We have one for the case rate system to determine bakit ba ginawa talaga ‘yun and whether we should abrogate,” he said.

“And we are also looking at their [information technology] systems because, previous to General Morales, we had encountered difficulty in accessing their IT database for various reasons. Although, recently nakaka-access na po kami (we have finally accessed),” he added. 

Go asked the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) to confirm the findings that the agency’s “ineffective” legal sector had bolstered the spread of fraudulent activities.

PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica said the bureaucratic red tape is creating opportunities for corruption within the agency. 

Turning back to Morales, Go asked for developments regarding the investigation of a regional vice president of the agency who is allegedly part of the PhilHealth ‘’mafia.’’

He noted that the non-rotation of RVPs might result in familiarity with an area which, in turn, could breed corruption.

In his opening statement during the inquiry, Go looked at systemic corruption as a sickness that needs to be addressed by both curative and preventive measures. 

Noting PhilHealth’s proposed transition to e-governance by adopting information technology tools which seek to reduce bureaucratic delays, improve accuracy of its database and eliminate corruption in the agency, Go said that it must be ensured that the proposed shift and the procurement of such IT equipment would also be free from corruption.

Go later said he was informed that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has submitted a report to the Office of the President on the various investigations conducted by the bureau on PhilHealth-related anomalies.

The NBI has also created its own task force focused on PhilHealth that can assist the Task Force earlier created by the President.