Senator Panfilo M. Lacson today said Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) officials face possible additional charges in the on-going Senate Committee of the Whole public hearing on alleged widespread corruption in that agency.
This refers to their reported failure to collect taxes on cash advances or coronavirus disease (COVID-19) funds given to hospitals, dialysis centers and other health care institutions under the interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM).
As a tax agent of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), PhilHealth should have collected facilitation and professional fees from the IRM funds, Lacson, committee vice chairman, said.
According to Renato Limsiaco Jr., PhilHealth senior vice president for fund management sector, they did not know that they have to deduct these fees from the IRM funds.
Lacson recalled asking Limsiaco during the committee hearing that PhilHealth should have fired its tax consultant and that Limsiaco replied that the agency has just hired its tax consultant.
"Ang masama dito, they already advanced to the BIR ang dapat withhold nila. Ang tanong ko, saan nyo kinuha ang sabi nyang P152 million na dapat equivalent sa withheld na taxes? Sabi nya sa capital outlay. So that’s criminal,’’ he said. (What is bad here, they already advanced to the BIR what should be withheld. I asked him where did they get the P152 million that should be the equivalent of the taxes withheld. He replied it is capital outlay. So that’s criminal.)
PhilHealth officials also explained that the taxes supposed to have been withheld could be taken after these establishments have liquidated the COVID-19 funds.
Lacson deemed such explanations as "palusot’’ [way out) for their ‘’ignorance’’ of the rules of withholding taxes.
But PhilHealth had made liquidation of COVID-19 funds as "optional,’’ he pointed out.