Senate ends PhilHealth hearings, committee report out soon

Published August 19, 2020, 11:51 AM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

After three gruelling hearings, the Senate has decided to terminate its investigation on the alleged corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, chairman of the Committee of the Whole that conducted the legislative inquiries on the controversies hounding the state insurer, said on Wednesday that he will be preparing the panel’s report and recommendations as to the actions to be undertaken by the government to address the anomalies in the agency.

“I’m formulating the committee report soon. We are done with the Carousel of denials and lies!” Sotto said in a text message sent to reporters.

Other senators also thought that the Senate had gathered enough evidence to prove that irregularities have been happening in PhilHealth.  

“The evidence, supported by official documents and testimonies provided by resource persons who testified under oath so far gathered by the Senate Committee of the Whole during the three, weekly hearings, are sufficient enough to indict people responsible, directly or otherwise for the systematic corrupt practices and malevolent acts that have practically dragged the PhilHealth to its present financial deathbed,” Lacson said in a separate message.

“Marami pang pwedeng i-uncover sa PhilHealth (We have a lot more to uncover in PhilHealth) but I think we have more than enough to move forward on what we have,” Senator Grace Poe said.

Sotto said officials of PhilHealth who were implicated in the alleged corrupt practices can explain and defend themselves before the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Ombudsman.

“I think Gen. [Ricardo] Morales should just appear before the DOJ together with his Execom and other officials and later with the Ombudsman,” he said.

“[I] Will forward all findings to the DOJ. Enough is enough,” he added.

Meanwhile, senators urged President Duterte to personally step in and take immediate actions on the issues in PhilHealth and its officials which were reported to be uncooperative in government investigations and audits.

“I think the executive department should do something about them. Short of bringing in the Marines!” Sotto said.

“Ang hinihintay ko ay magalit si PRRD sa kanila (I was just waiting for President Duterte to get angry at them),” he added.

“With the admission of investigative agencies of government such as the Commission on Audit and National Bureau of Investigation on the difficulty and lack of cooperation of Philhealth to submit important records for the ongoing investigations, then the government, through the Office of the President, should now compel the officers to take a leave of absence or be immediately suspended to allow these agencies to to their job and get to the bottom of this corruption scandal,” Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri also said.

“They should move quickly so these records can be secured and before they can be tampered, altered, or lost by unscrupulous individuals within the agency,” he added.

Zubiri said he plans to file a resolution to ask for the immediate suspension of PhilHealth officials “particularly those who refuse to take a leave of absence and hamper and obstruct the investigations on this agency.”