CRIMINAL and administrative complaints were filed yesterday against officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) over alleged fraudulent collection of contributions from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Former PhilHealth senior auditing systems specialist Ken F. Sarmiento filed the 19-page complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman together with lawyer Harry Roque Jr.
They sought indictments for violation of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Law against Dennis Mas, PhilHealth senior vice president for management services sector; Gilda Salvacion Diaz, vice president, Office of the Actuary; Narisa Sugay, vice president for Member Management Group; and Ruben John Basa, former executive vice president and chief operating officer.
PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales said: “If there is evidence, they will not remain in their position. So yes, they still have (my trust and confidence),” said Morales
He also said PhilHealth conducted its own probe which showed the respondents did not commit any wrongdoing.
“We did our investigation. And according to our investigation, it was the liaison officers of the employment agencies, who were responsible for this anomaly,” he said.
PhilHealth said Mas is former regional vice president for PhilHealth NCR while Basa is former PhilHealth chief operating officer.
Basa retired last year, said PhilHealth spokeswoman Shirley Domingo.
“He transferred to another job. He’s been with the government for so long. He came from Senate, Department of Health, PhilHealth. He just wants a change of environment,” said Domingo.
Sarmiento and Roque also accused the respondents of administrative offenses for dereliction of duty, grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, which are punishable with lengthy suspension to dismissal from service with forfeiture of eligibility and retirement benefits.
Sarmiento said he was head of the PhilHealth’s POEA-OFP, a unit embedded at the One-Stop Shop Center for OFWs of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
It is placed under the administrative control of PhilHealth-NCR North Branch and is tasked to administer the National Health Insurance Program for OFWs and their qualified dependents.
He said while assigned to the said office between September 2015 to September 2018, he came across 224 questionable PhilHealth official receipts (PORs).
According to him, the suspicious documents were issued by liaison officers of several land-based hiring agencies – all doing business at the Blas F. Ople Building.
Systems verification revealed all 224 PORs failed when checked against transaction details in PhilHealth’s database.
A second-level evaluation consisting of tests on the embedded security features, including ultraviolet light exposures, produced the same result – all 224 are fakes.
Armed with these findings, Sarmiento said he drafted 15 complaint-affidavits that were submitted to the Anti-Fraud Division of the National Bureau of Investigation in February 2016.
He also started inquiries into 868 additional photocopies of PORs that were also forwarded to the POEA-OFP unit for system verification. He said all were also found to be carrying “false and fictitious transaction details.”
Six additional complaint affidavits were prepared in May 2017 involving the latter batch of PORs which were submitted to the ad hoc committee created by then PhilHealth CEO Celestina de la Cerna.
The complainants said none of these complaints were acted upon by the committee.
Shortly after, while still gathering evidence against hiring agencies involved in the falsification, Sarmiento said he was reassigned out of POEA-OFP Operations Office against his will.
Sarmiento said report of the anomalous transactions reached Mas’ office through Office Memo No. 111 dated Sept. 29, 2015 tagging IEXCEL Manpower Corporation followed by Office Memo No. 114 dated October 22, 2015. The respondent reportedly failed to act on the information.
Likewise accused of inaction were Basa who was designated chairperson of the ad hoc committee on fake PORs on May 12, 2017 and Sugay who headed the same panel on October 30, 2017.
He said Diaz who was then OIC regional head for PhilHealth NCR referenced the case on fake PORs as reportedly endorsed to the Legal Sector by Sugay on May 31, 2018.
Sarmiento, however, pointed out that Sugay ceased to be part of the ad hoc committee on Feb. 7, 2018. – With Gerard Naval