PhilHealth appeals for fairness for suspended officials

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    THE Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) yesterday appealed to the Office of the Ombudsman for fairness and justice for its eight suspended officials.

    The suspended PhilHealth officials are facing investigation for alleged criminal and administrative offenses in connection with the disbursement of some P2.71 billion from the interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM) program to various hospitals and healthcare institutions in Metro Manila.

    In a statement, PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Dante Gierran also assured PhilHealth members and their dependents that their services will continue amid its problems.

    “PhilHealth assures its members and stakeholders that its mandate and services shall continuously proceed unhampered, notwithstanding the challenges that it is currently facing,” said Gierran who assumed the top PhilHealth post just last month.

    PhilHealth is under investigation by a task force led by the justice department for allegations of massive corruption. It is also being pressed by the Philippine Red Cross to fully pay its accumulated debt amounting to some P1.1 billion, and to honor an agreement between the PRC and PhilHealth that the state insurer pay Red Cross every three days for COVID-19 tests processed by Red Cross and charged to PhilHealth.

    PhilHealth this week paid Red Cross P500 million. Gierran said PhilHealth will expedite “processing” of the balance.

    Gierran yesterday expressed hope the Ombudsman will honor the constitutional right of their suspended personnel to the presumption of innocence.

    “We trust that the Honorable Office of the Ombudsman will accordingly observe objectivity, justice, and fairness, and allow our concerned officers and personnel the due process to properly explain and defend themselves,” said Gierran.

    Nevertheless, the PhilHealth chief assured the Ombudsman the state insurer is ready to implement the latter’s order of preventive suspension.

    On Wednesday, the Ombudsman released a seven-page consolidated order suspending eight top officials of PhilHealth, led by chief operating officer Arnel de Jesus, for six months.

    Aside from De Jesus, also suspended were Rene Limsiaco, executive vice president; Israel Francis Pargas, senior vice president; Gregorio Rulloda, PhilHealth-NCR vice president; Imelda Trinidad de Vera-Pe, head of the Benefits Administrative section; Lolita Tuliao, NCR-branch manager; Gemma Sibucao, fiscal examiner; and Lailani Padua, fiscal controller.

    The suspension is in connection with the investigation for alleged criminal and administrative offenses regarding the disbursement of some P2.71 billion to various hospitals and healthcare institutions in Metro Manila under the IRM program.

    TESTS

    Several private groups and laboratories led by Project Ark have offered to undertake the testing of returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) until PhilHealth has fully paid the Red Cross, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

    Red Cross resumed the testing on Tuesday night, hours after PhilHealth made the P500-million payment.

    Roque said Project Ark, a private initiative promoting the conduct of COVID-19 testing, committed its 11 laboratories to administer the tests on the OFWs. He said the Philippine Airport Diagnostic Lab, which is located at the airport, has also offered to administer the PCR test on the returning OFWs.

    He said the Department of Health has also started talks with eight private laboratories to administer and process the tests on OFWs.

    The Philippine Red Cross accounts for 25 percent of COVID-19 tests. – With Jocelyn Montemayor