MANILA – Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque believes the testimony of resigned Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) anti-fraud legal officer Thorsson Montes Keith that the state insurer’s executives may have pocketed PHP15 billion through fraudulent schemes.
Roque, who filed raps against PhilHealth executives over the WellMed ghost dialysis scam last year, said he also had a source who claimed that for some time, PhilHealth lost about PHP174 billion.
“If you look at what Atty. Keith said, perhaps he’s giving us an accurate estimate because he’s not the only one who says that,” he said in an interview over CNN Philippines on Wednesday.
He vouched for Keith’s credibility, saying the former anti-fraud investigator seemed to be familiar with a pattern of fraud perpetrated in the state health insurance firm.
“I would say that’s convincing because I had another source say that more or less that’s how much money is being lost annually,” he said.
Roque said what made Keith’s revelation more convincing is that PhilHealth president and chief executive officer (CEO) Ricardo Morales initially tried to deny the former’s position at the state insurer.
“The initial attempt of Gen. Morales to disclaim his employment as being an anti-fraud investigator I think is crucial because that established the credibility of Atty. Keith and I think Gen. Morales knew that as well that’s why he had to attempt to destroy his credibility by saying he had nothing to do with a fraud investigation,” he said.
He said losing billions of pesos is unacceptable, especially amid a prevailing coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
“That’s not something that we can digest and we should never digest. We should never accept that even a single peso is lost through corruption because precisely the law which I authored in the lower house, Universal Healthcare, will not be implemented correctly unless every single peso that the state invests in PhilHealth is used towards providing the people with free medicine and free healthcare,” he said.
In a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Keith said PhilHealth executives are responsible for “syndicate-like” implementation of the interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM) or cash advance program, the procurement of overpriced information, and communication technology equipment.
No evidence vs. Morales
Although he had no evidence that Morales himself is engaged in corrupt activities, Roque again expressed dismay over his seeming lack of action to rid the agency of corruption.
“When he was placed there by the President [Rodrigo Duterte] to replace a previous board and a previous president because of the WellMed scam, our expectation is that we will concrete steps to rid the agency of corruption. Yesterday, what worried me was he admitted that corruption is still rampant and I did not hear steps that he has taken to remove corruption in the agency,” he said.
Roque noted that while a PhilHealth president should be able to deal with corruption within his or her agency, Morales himself said he is unable to do so.
He, meanwhile, said he will leave it to Morales to decide whether to take a leave of absence or resign amid mounting anomalies in PhilHealth.
“That’s really up to him. I’m not in a position to tell him what to do,” he said.
Roque, according to Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, said the President will not fire Morales unless there is evidence to prove his links to corruption.
“I’m hoping that all these investigations will document the evidence that the President wants to see,” he said.
He also expressed full faith in confidence in the three investigations being conducted into irregularities at the PhilHealth, hopeful it would lead to the filing of cases.
The Senate, the Office of the Special Assistant to the President, and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission have launched an investigation into issues hounding PhilHealth.
“Let’s just say that unlike two months ago, authorities are finally investigating him…I think we can only keep the stench from coming out for a little period of time, but you can’t actually prevent it from seeping out and that’s what’s happening now. The truth is being uncovered,” he said. Azer Parrocha /PNA – northboundasia.com