Resigned PhilHealth exec in hiding

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    BY GERARD NAVAL and RAYMOND AFRICA

    A RESIGNED official of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), who claimed there is widespread corruption in the agency, yesterday said he has been receiving death threats and has gone into hiding.

    Thorrsson Montes Keith, former PhilHealth anti-fraud legal officer, said he started getting the death threats after he submitted his resignation letter late last week.

    “Nagtatago po muna ako (I’m hiding),” he said in an interview with Dobol B sa News TV.

    This developed as Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the Senate has three to four witnesses who will present evidence on widespread irregularities in PhilHealth, and Keith is one of them. He said Keith is a credible witness.

    Two resolutions were filed yesterday, calling for a Senate inquiry into the alleged “corruption, incompetence, and inefficiency” in PhilHealth amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

    The hearing will be conducted by the Senate as a committee of the whole, which will start the investigation either on Friday or Monday next week.

    Keith, asked why he is hiding, talked about the PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales, a former Army general. He said based on what he read on Google, his impression is that Morales is an “assassin.”

    “Sa background po niya makikita niyo naman ‘yung mga dati niyang ginawa kaya medyo nakakabahala,” Keith said. “Tinignan ko po sa Google, nakukuwan ko siya na parang assassin siya dati.”

    Morales, in an interview with the same program, dismissed Keith’s allegation he was an assassin.

    “Mabait na ako ngayon,” he said adding Keith might have been stressed or traumatized and advised him to consult a psychiatrist.

    Keith has said he has proof of massive corruption in the state health insurer.

    “It is like a pandemic,” he said.

    Asked whether he believes that Morales is party to the corrupt practices, Keith answered indirectly.

    “We have been calling his (Morales) attention on several matters. But nothing is happening.

    I just thought he is being duped by the senior officers there,” said Keith.

    As to the forthcoming Senate inquiry, he said he would be willing to face the investigation if invited.

    He said also willing to face the Senate is Etrobal Laborte who resigned as head executive assistant.

    “Whatever they will ask, I will just answer… Senator Ping Lacson is there, we are okay with that,” said Keith.

    In a previous statement, PhilHealth said Laborte tendered his resignation in the middle of July and will take effect at the end of August 2020 to go back to studies.

    Corporate Legal Counsel Roberto Labe Jr. denied reports he resigned, according to PhilHealth.

    SENATE WITNESSES

    Sotto and Sen. Panfilo Lacson yesterday filed Senate Resolution No. 475 which calls for an inquiry on the alleged “corruption, incompetence, and inefficiency” in PhilHealth amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

    The hearing will be conducted by the Senate as a committee of the whole, which will start the investigation either on Friday or Monday next week.

    Among the issues to be investigated are the alleged anomalous implementation of the PhilHealth’s interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM), overpriced purchase of information and communications technology equipment worth P734 million, and alleged manipulation of the agency’s financial statement.

    Sen Francis Pangilinan filed Senate Resolution 474, also calling for a Senate probe.

    “It is vital to determine the causes of the reported leakages and losses, investigate the widespread corruption in PhilHealth, and hold officials accountable, as corrupt practices only disrupt and health care delivery care during the COVID-19 pandemic and worsen its impacts to the detriment of Filipinos,” Pangilinan said.

    Sen. Christoper “Bong” Go, Senate committee on health chair, said President Duterte still has trust in Morales despite the allegations.

    Go said even he can count of Morales’ integrity even as said that is best to just wait for the outcome of the Senate investigation.