Senate adopts committee report on Philhealth irregularities and corresponding recommendations

Published September 7, 2020, 7:58 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Senate adopted on Monday the Committee of the Whole’s report on the alleged corruption and irregularities in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

The Upper Chamber upheld the findings and recommendations of the panel, such as the filing of malversation, graft and other criminal cases against Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, former PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales and other officials, as a result of the legislative hearings on the alleged anomalies in in the state insurer’s advanced reimbursement program.

“It’s now officially a Senate Report,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III posted on Twitter following the adoption.

Before its approval, the committee report was amended to emphasize the gravity of PhilHealth’s “improper and illegal” implementation of the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) and specifically recommend the filing of “at least 631 counts of malversation of public funds or property.”

The penalties have also been enumerated in the committee report for the various amounts of releases made by the PhilHealth.

While Duque had denied his involvement on the PhilHealth’s implementation of the IRM, Sotto maintained that the Department of Health secretary “is liable for unlawful release of IRM.”

“Because in the Board of Directors in both old law and RA 7875, National Health Insurance Act of 1995, under the Board of Directors, the composition of corporation…says the corporation is ‘governed’ by a Board of Directors,” Sotto said during the plenary discussion on the committee report Monday afternoon.

“We all know what we mean by ‘governed’…It’s very clear in the law,” he said.

Sotto also accepted the amendment proposed by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, also for Duque to heed the call of senators to resign “for failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight, inefficiency in the performance of his mandate, resulting in poor planning, delayed response, lack of transparency and misguided policies in addressing COVID19 pandemic; evidence in conflict of interest and perceived tolerance in the massive corruption in Philhealth under his chairmanship leaves him with no decent option but to resign. “

“The public has suffered enough and can no longer wait for the SOH’s soul-searching endeavor,” the report included.

The Senate also recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against PhilHealth’s top officials over the plan to procure overpriced information technology system; the negligence of the agency’s legal sector on fraudulent claims and alleged manipulation of the corporation’s financial status.

Aside from recommending charges against the officials, the adopted committee report also sought reforms in the PhilHealth, as well as concerned departments and constitutional institutions, to prevent a repeat of the alleged fund misuse.

Meanwhile, Senate committees were also advised to work on the amendment of the Universal Health Care Act, particularly the composition of the Board of Directors of Philhealth to designate the Secretary of the Finance as ex-officio chairperson of the board, instead of the Secretary of Health.

“This is in consideration of the fact that Philhealth is a government financial institution and the Secretary of Finance is more fitting to further strengthen the agency’s fiduciary responsibility to protect the national health insurance fund. This will also preclude possible conflict-of-interest between the Secretary of Health and healthcare institutions and practitioners,” the adopted report said.

It also pushed to increase the amount and the duration of suspension for violations of accredited health care providers, that in case of fraudulent claims, irrespective of amount, the penalty of permanent revocation of accreditation must be imposed.