VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Hontiveros FALSELY linked again to past PhilHealth issues

Erroneous social media posts linking Sen. Risa Hontiveros to issues of graft in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) have gone viral online after the new mandatory rate for overseas workers’ contribution made headlines.

From May 4 to 7, various Facebook (FB) groups and pages published the exact same photo and caption holding Hontiveros responsible for three things -- “stealing” 1.7 billion pesos from Philhealth; involvement in a “missing” 10 billion-peso budget of the agency; and causing higher rates of health insurance contributions from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

None of these are true.

The P1.7 billion figure has been attached to Hontiveros since 2018, after online posts falsely insinuated that the senator, a former PhilHealth board member, was being asked to “return” illegal bonuses in that amount.

In a 2018 interview with VERA Files, Rey Baleña, Philhealth corporate communications manager, said Hontiveros is not among the officials the Commission on Audit held liable for the unauthorized release of a total of P163.85 million, not P1.76 billion, in 2009, 2010 and 2014. (See Online posts claiming Hontiveros involved in PhilHealth bonuses mess FALSE)

Also in 2018, Hontiveros’ name was linked to reports of a P10.6 billion senior citizens’ fund in PhilHealth that was diverted without board approval to the Department of Health (DOH) in 2015. PhilHealth filed a complaint before the Ombudsman against former health secretary Janet Garin and former PhilHealth chair Alexander Padilla who made the request. Garin and Padilla denied any wrongdoing, saying the Department of Budget and Management never released the funds.

As the new mandatory rate for overseas workers’ PhilHealth contributions sparked outrage, netizens again dragged Hontiveros into the controversy, accusing her of draining OFWs of their money, because of the Universal Health Care Law (UHC).

Hontiveros is one of several co-authors of the UHC in the Senate. However, the guidelines on the new rate of contributions from all PhilHealth members including OFWs, as laid out in the law's implementing rules and regulations, were put together by the executive department headed by the DOH.

FB group PROTECT THE PRESIDENT DUTERTE and page Solid Sarah Z Duterte 2022 had the most interactions on their post about Hontiveros, collectively acquiring about 8,000 reactions, comments and shares.

(Editor's Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)


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About Vera Files

Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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