Malacañang confirmed that six Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) regional officers have filed their leave of absence as the investigations on the alleged corruption in the agency continue.
In a statement, presidential spokesman Harry Roque, however, said that the six officials were not part of the so-called “mafia” in the state health insurance corporation, referred to by Senator Panfilo Lacson.
“They were, in fact, referred to as ‘heroes’ by PhilHealth board member Alejandro Cabading during his Senate testimonies,” he added.
In a letter dated August 15, the six officials informed PhilHealth Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Arnel de Jesus that they decided to “voluntarily file” their official leaves effective Monday, August 17.
The copy of the letter was provided by a source.
The PhilHealth officials who will take leave are Vice Presidents Paolo Johann Perez (Mimaropa), Atty. Valerie Anne Hollero (Western Visayas), Datu Masiding Alonto Jr. (Northern Mindanao), Atty. Khaliquzzman Macabato (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), Dennis Adre, and William Chavez.
The six officials said that they decided to take a leave upon the call of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and in support on the Congressional investigations.
“The ongoing Senate and House of Representatives investigations into graft and corruption at PhilHealth demand full cooperation from all its officers and staff. This is necessary to help determine and assign culpability in the most expeditious manner,” the officials wrote.
“This will give investigators a free hand in finding out those responsible and finally bring them to account,” they added.
“We, the Regional Vice Presidents, have also designated an Officer in Charge in our respective regions so as not to disrupt the daily operations of the regional office and further ensure the timely delivery of public service,” they said.
Right thing to do
Roque said the move of the PhilHealth officials was the right thing to do.
“They chose to go on leave and heeded the call of Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra for those whose names are mentioned in the investigation to go on leave,” he said.
“We consider this as the right and proper thing to do,” he added.
The Palace official reiterated the DOJ’s appeal to those who were named in the investigation to follow what their colleagues did.
“The Palace reiterates the call of the DOJ secretary, who heads the PhilHealth Task Force, for those officers under investigation, particularly the members of the Executive Committee (ExeCom) who have been named in the investigations of both Senate and House, to follow their action and go on leave,” Roque said.
PhilHealth is the subject of many investigations over alleged corruption activities, including one by a task force led by the DOJ as ordered by President Duterte. Embattled PhilHealth President Ricardo Morales has filed for medical leave.
According to Roque, President Duterte still trusts Morales but the Chief Executive is still waiting for the result of the investigation of the task force.
He added that the President did not want to put any more pressure on Morales who is already battling cancer while facing corruption allegations.
Gordon to cut PRC-PhilHealth ties
Senator Richard Gordon has threatened to suspend the Philippine Red Cross’ (PRC) partnership with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) should the latter fail to pay its dues for the Red Cross’ COVID-19 testing services by Monday, August 17.
Gordon , PRC chairman , gave PhilHealth the ultimatum as he expressed his frustration over the delay in the state health insurer’s payment to the PRC despite several requests.
The PhilHealth and the PRC entered into an agreement in May for the latter to provide Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) tests and augment the government’s testing efforts.
An initial ₱100 million was given as advance payment to the PRC for its testing services.
Gordon said the initial fund had been used up and the PhilHealth now owes the PRC some ₱700 million for the COVID-19 tests that it has conducted over the past two months.
“Ang laki-laki na ng utang nila abot na ng ₱1 billion (Their debt has ballooned to almost ₱1 billion),” Gordon said in an interview with radio DWIZ.
“Dahil naubos agad, eh, wala na (Because the fund was immediately spent, it’s gone). Paunti-unti na lang ang bigay, eh ‘di naman pupwede ‘yon (They’re giving us piecemeal payments, we can’t always allow that),” he lamented.
“I told them that if you do not pay up, then I would have to stop our tests. I will continue it for walk-in clients,” he said.
“’Pag ‘di kayo nagbayad ng Monday, titigil ko muna (If you do not pay by Monday, I will suspend it),” he said.
Gordon said that following the P100- million initial payment, PhilHealth only paid the PRC some ₱123,000 just days ago.
He said PhilHealth made many excuses for deferring their reimbursements.
He said he has also sought the help of Cabinet officials and even Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to compel the state insurer to pay.
PhilHealth supposedly asked for the amendment of their contract and reduce the PRC’s charges since it already revised its benefit packages after being called out by lawmakers for overpricing.
The PRC’s swab testing costs ₱3,500.
“They told us that we should be charging just ₱2,900 for our tests,” he said.