In search of Superman

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    ‘But here he is now, the erstwhile reformer, telling one and all that PhilHealth is beyond his – and Superman’s – capabilities. The young idealistic officer has apparently turned into a “lion in winter,” long in tooth, the fight drained out of him.’

    RETIRED Army Brig. Gen. Ricardo C. Morales, PhilHeath president, CEO and board vice chairman, is said to have remarked that even Superman would not be able to solve the problem named PhilHealth.

    Fraud, Morales told a Senate investigation, was inherent in health insurance systems around the world, and it would take years to root out the systemic corruption in the national health insurance agency.

    Maybe the senators should summon health care experts from the Nordic countries, from the UK and Germany and the United States, Singapore, Taiwan and even China and North Korea. I think they will find that in all these countries’ health insurance systems there are cases of corruption, yes, many brought about by systemic weaknesses. And there are some that are caused by Mafias within. But the Senate should also check how other countries deal with the Mafias. How many decide to go after them with hammer and tongs, and how many choose to co-exist?

    At least in China, officials as high as senior members of the party are executed for corrupt practices. China has yet to learn the more humane system in the Philippines of moving them from one post to another.

    And in none of these countries has there been an appeal to Superman, or Iron Man, or Capt America. It took a retired Philippine Army one star general to raise that.

    Which is disappointing. And not because I am not a Superman fan. But because it was spoken by a member of RAM.

    In the 1980s, the Reform the Armed Forces Movement had the balls to unveil a challenge to a sitting president – corrupt dictator is how they pictured him – during one of its most solemn rites being held right at the very heart of the Philippine military’s home. It was March 1985, during the annual alumni parade at the Philippine Military Academy, that a streamer with the words “unity in reforms” was unveiled, a daring “stunt” at a time when the Philippines remained in the firm grip of Ferdinand Marcos and any such demonstration of contrarian thinking could end one’s military career – or more.

    Army Capt. Ricardo Morales was part of RAM. Assigned to the security detail of then-First Lady Imelda Marcos, he was given a crucial role on a plot designed to capture the Marcos family and bring about an end to their reign. Capt. Morales knew that this whole caper could mean his life but he was willing to take the risk.

    Then the plot was uncovered; Capt Morales was arrested and was used by Marcos on national television as Exhibit A of a plot to kill him and the First Lady; he was then jailed in the compound of the Presidential Security forces. But before anything could be done to him, EDSA happened. The Marcoses fled, and Morales was freed.

    His idealism didn’t fade away with EDSA. Years later, when the AFP was embroiled in a scandal involving its comptroller, Gen. Carlos Garcia, Morales wrote a letter to Gen. Narciso Abaya, the AFP Chief of Staff, asking what actions were being taken to investigate the case.

    Morales was bothered by what appeared to be foot-dragging, in stark contrast to the fact that the United States had already started its own investigations into the dollar smuggling committed by Garcia’s wife and sons.

    And then when the AFP built a 60-room family resort hotel in Boracay as part of its effort to “boost troop morale” in 2005, Morales again was there to critique it. And not privately through memos, mind you.

    But here he is now, the erstwhile reformer, telling one and all that PhilHealth is beyond his – and Superman’s – capabilities. The young idealistic officer has apparently turned into a “lion in winter,” long in tooth, the fight drained out of him. The young officer who was willing to take on Ferdinand Marcos, and then even the AFP leadership, now throws in the towel in the face of an alleged Mafia in PhilHealth. And throws in the towel not just for himself but for the Man of Steel, too.
    Is it truly that bad, Gen. Morales?

    The Filipino people, whose hard-earned contributions are being stolen right from under their very noses, deserve to know why even Superman won’t be able to hack it.