This sordid PhilHealth mess

Former PhilHealth Senior Vice President for Legal Affairs Rodolfo Del Rosario Jr., Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, and former PhilHealth Chief Ricardo Morales.

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

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, both Roque and Duque cited the PhilHealth chief’s ill health and nothing about the massive corruption in the agency that has been the subject of a Senate investigation.

And that is what we are wary about. 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.”

Former PhilHealthpresident and CEO Alexander Padilla, former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, and former Health Secretary Janette Garin

Abad, budget secretary during the administration of Benigno Aquino III, was most surprised: “How strange and suspect, too, that throughout the 39-page Executive Summary, my name was never once mentioned in discussing the issues related to the case, or in identifying those allegedly involved. And yet—surprise!—in the recommendation for the filing of charges towards the end of the Report Summary, 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 said he was never asked to attend any of the Senate hearing on PhilHealth nor asked to submit a position paper to explain his side of the issues.

“I can only conclude that the release of this report is maliciously timed to confuse the public and distract them from the real PhilHealth scandal that Gordon should be investigating: the current PhilHealth scam that reeks of anomaly and unabashed corruption, and which the proper parties should be strictly held accountable for–based of course on facts, and not on wild conjecture,” he further said.

Padilla, who also said he was never asked to appear in the Senate investigations, has yet to get the 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 further said: 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.”

PhilHealth was established to ensure affordable, acceptable, available and accessible health care services for all Filipino citizens. What is happening now is making us all sick.

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.