Senate starts probe on alleged PhilHealth anomalies

Senate starts probe on alleged PhilHealth anomalies

MANILA – The Senate on Tuesday began its inquiry into the allegations of rampant corruption, incompetence, and inefficiency in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) amidst the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said the inquiry is being conducted after several PhilHealth officials, both incumbent or recently resigned, sought the Senate’s intervention to help them “drain the swamp,” or root out corruption in the agency.

“And for good reason. PhilHealth is a murky, stinking swamp that many of its good and well-meaning people from the officials to their rank-and-file employees (are) drained, not just of some corrupt but well-entrenched officials who do not seem to run out of malevolent schemes to enrich themselves, but of a deeply rooted, mafia-like syndicate that controls the resources of the corporation, and habitually manipulate its financial records, that even the COA (Commission on Audit) seems helpless in the conduct of their regular audit,” Lacson said in his opening statement at the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing.

He said among the issues to be discussed in the hearing are PhilHealth’s alleged overpriced ICT equipment; the manipulation of PhilHealth’s financial statements; and the highly irregular implementation of advanced payments to health care institutions through the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) policy.

Lacson claimed that the anomalies seem to revolve around certain “high-ranking officials” who manage to retain their seats despite the change of leadership and alleged anomalies in the past.

“Suffice it to say, Mr. President, this is the reason why we are gathered here yet again to conduct this inquiry not only in aid of legislation but more importantly in aid of the more than 104 million members and dependents of PhilHealth, as well as all the taxpayers of this country,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, said he found it “absolutely outrageous and offensive” that amid the pandemic, the agency mandated to provide health insurance coverage and ensure accessible health care services for Filipinos continuous to be haunted by controversies.

“Mr. Chairman, our healthcare system is on the brink of collapse. Our healthcare workers are burned out, physically and mentally. We are at war, yet it seems that the plague of PhilHealth corruption could be more fatal than any other virus. How can PhilHealth officials sleep well at night?” he said.

“We hope that this hearing will shed light on the various issues and finally stop the widespread corruption,” Drilon said. Jose Cielito Reganit /PNA –