Incumbent, former PhilHealth officials to testify on alleged fund embezzlement during pandemic: Lacson

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 03 2020 03:49 PM

MANILA - Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Monday said at least 3 former and current officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth) are set to testify how several workers in the agency have been squandering funds at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

PhilHealth board member Alejandro Cabading, former head executive assistant Etrobal Laborte and resigned anti-fraud legal officer Thorrsson Montes Keith are expected to "divulge a lot of things tomorrow," lacson told reporters in an online press conference.

"Matagal na nakikiusap yung iba sa kanila na kung puwede, maimbestigahan ng Senate kasi ang PhilHealth is still very much controlled by the PhilHealth mafia," Lacson said.

"He sounded so frustrated kaya he has decided to come out," the senator said, referring to Cabading who is still part of the PhilHealth board.

Lacson said discussions during the first hearing will focus on the following issues:

- PhilHealth's interim reibursement mechanism 
- PhilHealth's allegedly manipulated financial statements
- Alleged overpricing in the procurement of medical equipment 

Some officials allegedly "make it appear" that the PhilHealth still has a a "sound financial standing" despite corruption and leakages in the state-run insurance firm mandated to shoulder the COVID-19 testing and other health bills of Filipinos, the senator said.

"'Yung payables ng PhilHealth, hindi daw nila binu-book kaya baka hindi magtagal, mabangkarote ang PhilHealth because of mismanagement," he said.

The Senate's investigation into alleged irregularities in PhilHealth will be the chamber's lone hearing that will require resource persons to be physically present as the legislative body prepares for a 2-week lockdown, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in a separate press conference.

"'Yun lang ang matutuloy na may physical presence kasi naka-schedule na bukas. Mahirap na awatin," he said.

"There are also time constraints as far as the whistleblowers are concerned. So medyo dangerous na iwan natin ng 2 linggo na nakatabi lang sila," he added.

Keith earlier said that his life may be in danger after divulging alleged irregularities in PhilHealth both in his resignation letter and in media interviews.

"We seek to answer the questions of how and where were these funds spent? What are the causes of leakages in PhilHealth?" Sotto said.

"We'd like them to address the corruption allegations," he added, noting that PhilHealth President Ricardo Morales is expected to attend the Senate's investigation.

Resource persons will be mandated to be physically present so that the Senate can cite them in contempt should they come up with misleading answers or refuse to cooperate during the investigation, Sotto said.

"Ang problema sa maselan na hearing na ganito, hindi pupuwedeng basta virtual lahat because puwedeng nag-uusap tayo pero may hindi nakikinig," he said.

"Or kung merong question, puwedeng biglang sabihin na ay nawalan ng internet... That's why resource persons must be physically present," he said.

Health Sec. Francisco Duque III is expected to be summoned in succeeding hearings as the Senate eyes to amend the law that created PhilHealth "to prevent similar occurrences" of irregularities in the future, Sotto said.