Start gov’t anti-corruption drive with PhilHealth

Published October 30, 2020, 2:52 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas said Friday that the government’s all-out anti-corruption campaign should start with the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.

Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas

“If President Duterte really desires to get rid of corruption in the bureaucracy, he should start with the PhilHealth executives who pocketed P15 billion,” Brosas said during a virtual press conference of the Makabayan bloc a few days after Duterte tasked the Department of Justice to launch an all-encompassing probe on corruption in the bureaucracy.

The militant congressman had earlier noted that nobody – especially among the major personalities in the PhilHealth “mafia” controversy that grabbed headlines a couple of months ago – has been held accountable for the supposed massive fraud.

“Mga maliliit na opisyales lang ang kayang gawing scapegoat pero parang lumalambot ang puso sa mga big time na magnanakaw (Lowly officials are being made scapegoats while the big time thieves get a pass),” Brosas said.

Topping the list of those who should answer the corruption allegations according to Makabayan are Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and former PhilHealth Chief Executive Officer Ricardo Morales. Duque serves as chairman of the board at PhilHealth.

“We challenge President Duterte: Panagutin mo si Duque, Morales, at iba pang matataas na opisyales na sangkot sa nakawan ng pondo ng mamamayan. Patunayan mo na hindi lang ‘yan palabas (Make Duque, Morales, and other high-ranking officials accountable for stealing public funds. Prove that is not just for show),” Brosas said of Duterte’s renewed anti-corruption drive.

Former PhilHealth anti-fraud legal officer Thorrsson Montes Keith claimed before a Senate panel last August that PhilHealth’s top officials have stolen some P15 billion from the agency ‘s coffers using different fraudulent schemes.

This abuse of public funds at PhilHealth was magnified by the persisting public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers likened the massive reports of corruption at the agency a cesspool.

“This doesn’t merely send a whiff of corruption anymore. This is already a cesspool. ‘Yung amoy nanunuot na. Dumidikit na sa damit (The stench is penetrating. It stays on your clothes),” said Barbers, a vice chairman of the Public Accounts Committee which probed the PhilHealth controversy in the House of Representatives.