Convenient alibi, inconvenient truth

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    As much as we try not to think about the word “malingering,” the idea always comes to mind because of the propensity of many resource persons who were haled to Senate investigations in the past to come out with an alibi about their poor health.

    THE Senate, the Palace, the House of Representatives, the netizens, media, and most of all millions of its members among them overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who all contributed part of their incomes for its upkeep are asking whatever happened to their money and taxes in PhilHealth.

    But the officials who have been called to shed light on the irregularities and financial scandals and fraud at the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. are unavailable due to medical emergencies — real or imaginary. They even have medical certificates to prove their incapacity to attend Senate hearings; some have sought refuge from the very convenient alibi called COVID-19. But a medical certificate is a paper document that is as good only as the reliability and honesty of the physician/s who signed it. It compares well with receipts presented by lower-ranking PhilHealth officials purportedly documenting transfer of funds to hospital recipients which turn out later as fake.

    Sen. Francis “Tol” Tolentino would have wanted to pursue his questioning of PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales about the anomalous promotions of officials in the agency, given that these officials had been tainted by allegations of graft and corruption and while others had been compromised. Morales lamely explained that there are no cases yet that have prospered against these officials, and thus they can be promoted.

    Sen. Tolentino also would have wanted Morales to explain further the seeming violations the PhilHealth management did, which are contrary to Section 38 of the Administrative Code or Executive Order 292, still about personnel matters in the state insurance firm. The PhilHealth president admitted before the last Senate hearing that as provided for by law, he consulted Secretary Francisco Duque III as chairman of the agency but failed to implement the secretary’s order, which is to comply with directives of President Duterte to ask for the resignations of all vice presidents of the corporation. Morales also had a hard time answering the questions of Tolentino and Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III about two board resolutions he failed to implement, with the effect being those who should have resigned or fired because of corruption or inefficiency were themselves promoted.

    Other senators like Sen. Ping Lacson have more questions posed to PhilHealth officials but this would remain unresolved, hopefully not permanently, until officials like Morales and executive vice president Arnel de Jesus can attend the probe. De Jesus has written to the Senate, attaching a copy of a medical certificate showing he had multiple heart-related ailments and was scheduled to undergo several medical procedures.

    As much as we try not to think about the word “malingering,” the idea always comes to mind because of the propensity of many resource persons who were haled to Senate investigations in the past to come out with an alibi about their poor health.

    The senators said they were saddened by the news that Morales has cancer and cannot be available to meet them, and that De Jesus is sick, and one or two other PhilHealth officials were on leave or have resigned.

    We can only hope that these officials are not using the pandemic as a well-suited alibi, as Morales had used it when he said he could not go after the erring hospitals because these medical facilities are badly needed during the COVID-19 emergency.

    The pandemic has ravaged the nation, physically and also in our deepest moral core, as a convenient alibi so that some people could evade facing the inconvenient truth.