This sordid PhilHealth mess

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    ‘We are not sure if all these investigations by the Senate and the Ombudsman are really being done to find out the truth and punish the guilty. Or is it Operation: Cover up?’

    THE PhilHealth mess is still unfolding and it seems we have not seen the worst of it.

    On Thursday, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III announced that President Duterte accepted the resignation of PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales.

    News reports also said PhilHealth Senior Vice President for Legal Affairs Rodolfo Del Rosario Jr., who was among those suspended for six months without pay, also resigned last Monday.

    In announcing Duterte’s acceptance of Morales’ resignation, Roque and Duque cited the PhilHealth chief’s ill health. Nothing was said about the massive corruption in the agency that has been the subject of a Senate investigation.

    And that is what we are wary of. We are not sure if all these investigations by the Senate and the Ombudsman are really being done to find out the truth and punish the guilty. Or is it Operation: Cover up?

    Last Tuesday, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chair Richard Gordon released his report implicating former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, former Health Secretary Janette Garin, and former PhilHealth president and CEO Alexander Padilla in the alleged diversion of P10.6 billion of PhilHealth funds “to construct barangay health centers and procure dental trucks which supposedly had not been utilized at all.”

    Quoting Gordon, news reports said “the funds were meant for the PhilHealth premiums of senior citizens.”

    Abad, budget secretary during the administration of Benigno Aquino III, was most surprised: “Gordon suddenly dragged my name in. That’s laughable magic: no facts stipulated, no violations soundly alleged, but a recommendation nonetheless to file charges against me,” he said in a statement.

    Abad added: “In the first place, there was no P10.6 billion budget to speak of. Not in the 2015 (General Appropriations Act), not anywhere. How could funds be diverted if they were not in the budget to start with?”

    Padilla, who said he was never asked to appear in the Senate investigations, was also surprised. He has yet to get a report of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee but categorically denied the allegation.

    “But if reports are true, let me categorically state that the charges leveled against me for fund diversion is patently false, an outright lie,” he said.

    He added: “The so-called 10.6B fund intended for payment of senior citizen’s premiums NEVER happened. No such funds were allocated in the 2015 GAA or at any time when I was then President/CEO of PhilHealth. It is IMPOSSIBLE TO DIVERT ANY FUNDS THAT DOESN’T EXIST. While PhilHealth may have requested at the time for the payment for the premiums of senior citizens in order for it to augment its coffers, the request was never granted and the allocation never given.

    “There is no correlation as well to the P9.392B Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) for barangay health stations and the like. First, the amounts are different and next, the HFEP budget came from savings of unused personnel funds from the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund (MPBF), which was duly authorized by Congress in the 2015 GAA.

    Again, PhilHealth has nothing to do with HFEP as it is not in the business of funding infrastructure projects of DOH.”

    He added: “I think a simple perusal of the budget allocations for PhilHealth and DOH during those years would reveal these simple truths. Further, for even simple decency, observance of common courtesy and due process, I was never asked to appear, explain or comment on these.”

    Garin, who is now a member of the House of Representatives representing the first district of Iloilo, said “Gordon’s report is a big joke!”

    “I do not know of Sen. Gordon’s true intentions and why he keeps on pointing fingers at me. I do not know why he has to release a report ahead of the real Senate report. Pati ba naman ghost dialysis scam na nangyari pagkatapos baliktarin ‘yung mga reforms na ginawa namin, eh kasalanan ko pa? Big joke talaga.Pero sabi nga ng iba, when you point one finger, three fingers point back at you,” she said in a statement.”

    This is sickening.

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