September 11, 2020 at 12:30 am
"Million is being spent on a non-essential urban beautification project during a time of pandemic and rampant unemployment."
But what it also is, is a distraction from one of the worst corruption scandals in government – what has been rightly called the PhilHealth (Philippine Health Insurance Corp.) mess.
According to former employee and whistleblower lawyer Thorsson Keith, some Philhealth top executives may have been responsible for diverting some P15 billion of the agency’s funds into their pocket through fraud.
Palace spokesperson lawyer Harry Roque in early August said Keith’s allegations sounded “convincing,” because “I had another source say that more or less that’s how much money is being lost annually.”
Philhealth was also in the news last year over the WellMed dialysis scam, another fraudulent scheme where the agency was billed for procedures on “ghost” patients.
While Roque said there is no evidence linking former Philhealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales to the scams, he did says that Morales nothing to curb the corruption occurring under his nose.
Other illegal scams in the agency have been brought to light. Former Philhealth senior auditing systems specialist Ken Sarmiento, who worked on the agency’s overseas Filipino program, bared a loss of P1.2 billion in contributions from OFWs through a scheme involving fake receipts.
Other allegations have been made about “illegal orders” Morales supposedly gave Keith, among them to “fix” the WellMed case and re-accredit a physician who was among those said to be involved in the case.
Keith was also allegedly told to “massage” the agency’s pending case before the Presidential Anti-Corruption Council related to allegedly overpriced COVID-19 testing rates.
Murmurs of corruption in PhilHealth have been rumbling for years, and it is thanks to whistleblowers that we are now learning of its extent. President Duterte has responded by appointing a new agency head, former National Bureau of Investigation director Dante Gierran.
Gierran has said, quite humbly, that he doesn’t know anything about the healthcare business. But he is a lawyer and an accountant, and according to the Presidential Communications Operations Office, the President has ordered him to sniff out erring officials, reshuffle them within the organization, and use the next two years to “fight against corruption.” We hope Gierran will perform his job with faithfulness and integrity.
What is most galling about this for us, the regular folk, is that a certain percentage of our paychecks are taken and remitted to Philhealth as a mandatory payment. For this money to be forcibly taken from us only to go into the pockets of the evil and corrupt is unconscionable and disgusting. May the errant officials and personnel be found and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Though I have been through many medical crises, including major surgery, I have never availed of my PhilHealth benefits – first because they are low, and second, they take too long to process, particularly when you just want to go home from the hospital. I’ve also thought that by foregoing my benefits, there would be that much more money to help other people. I was wrong. And this makes me very angry.
While lawmakers, the Cabinet, and other higher powers are sorting through this mess, what do we do?
I am not inclined to fork over any more of my hard-earned money to PhilHealth until the criminals there are weeded out.
I refuse to let my money be used to fund the lifestyles of people without consciences, who can shut their ears to the crying of their sick kababayan asking for the succour they are entitled to because they make mandatory payments to PhilHealth.
I will not be sidetracked by other controversies such as the “white sand” project, the irrelevant plan to censor Netflix, and the other dumb ideas we’ve been hearing about lately.
To those in charge of fixing this mess: Root out the evil in PhilHealth. Try to get back some of those billions. And show us that for once, you are on the people’s side.
*** FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO