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Philhealth grilled on fraudulent claims

Members of the House committee on good government and public accountability on Tuesday approved the granting of legislative immunity to a former head executive staff of Philippine Health Insurance Corp. as part of its inquiry into the millions of pesos lost by PhilHealth due to fraudulent claims involving former top officials of the state-run health insurer.

Chaired by Rep. Johnny Pimentel (2nd District, Surigao del Sur), the committee conducted an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the alleged corruption and irregularities in the operation and business of PhilHealth, on the basis of House Resolution No. 767 filed by Rep. Harry Roque (Party-list, Kabayan).

Former Philhealth Head Executive Staff Dr. Ma. Dominga Padilla said that many former high ranking Philhealth officials named in similar complaints have been frequently seen privately consulting with incumbent Philhealth executives in what appears to be a plan to appoint them as consultants.

Padilla requested the committee for an executive session to disclose the names of former Philhealth officials who were allegedly involved in corruption and irregularities.

If it were just me, I don't mind going public. But some of the information that I'm going to divulge involve information from physicians who are afraid for their lives. They are the ones I am worried about. That's why I would be able to speak more in an executive session, said Padilla.

Pimentel, however, said the identification of the culprits is not important to the committee.

Kahit hindi na natin i-mention ang source. We can proceed with the hearing once we get the legislative immunity signed by the Speaker. Hindi naman importante sa atin yung source. Ang importante yung facts of the case at kung ano ang sinabi. he said.

The committee can do executive session when the need arises so that if anybody questions the veracity of the statements, at least we have the information already with us, said Rep. Arnolfo Teves (3rd District, Negros Oriental)

Teves later asked the present PhilHealth officials if there was a formal turnover of all the necessary documents by the outgoing Philhealth officials.

Kasi kung walang formal turn over, baka kasabwat kayo, sinasabi ko lang, he said.

He then moved to invite former and present members of the board of PhilHealth during the next hearing.

Pimentel noted that once they get the legislative immunity, Padilla can now state all the facts and can name the persons involved.

Rep. Doy Leachon (1st District, Oriental Mindoro) said the committee can do two things : seek legislative immunity; and go on executive session.

Dr. John Basa, PhilHealth OIC vice president said Philhealth Board Resolution 2171 S2016 was approved last October 14, 2016, giving the Philhealth president and CEO the authority to request the assistance of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Office of the Ombudsman in the investigation of complaints.

As reported to the PhilHealth Commiittee on Appealed Administrative Cases (CAAC), Philhealth board member Dr. Roy Ferrer said Atty. Valerie Hollero, Officer-in-Charge, Office of the Corporate Legal Counsel, and former corporate secretary has been found accountable for board resolution and minutes of the meetings that do not reflect the board's proceedings.

He said the reports state that documents were manipulated to look like the board intended to implement what were discussed even if these were not approved. The amount involved is over P1 billion, according to him.

Ferrer said the board was informed that Hollero failed to appear in the interviews called by the fact-findings body five times, even if he was given flexibility to schedule the interviews eight times. The matter was referred to the Ombudsman and the Civil Service Commission for appropriate action.

Rep. France Castro (Party-list, ACT TEACHER) compared Philhealth to grocery items which are being sold to the public.

Itong Philhealth is under the Department of Health (DOH) at alam natin ang pondo ng PhilHealth papalaki ng papalaki. So mas malaki ang responsibilidad na i-take over ng DoH dito. Parang less ang responsiblidad ng DOH at ang service provider na dapat direkta sa ating mamamayan. Parang walang monitoring regulation ang DoH, Castro said.

She also mentioned the universal health care bill which is now on second reading and one of the priority bills of the Duterte administration.

Castro cited the need to focus on the investigation because PhilHealth will play an important role in the implementation of the measure that will soon be passed by Congress.

Rep. Romeo Acop (2nd District, Antipolo City) and Teves urged PhilHealth current officials to submit to the committee all documents pertaining to the investigation and asked the committee to summon in the next hearing former Health Undersecretary Alexander Padilla, who was also erstwhile PhilHealth CEO and president, and the NBI agent who received the complaint.

Source: House of Representatives

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