'Hilutin': Ex-PhilHealth official claims Morales wanted issue on alleged overpriced test kits fixed

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 04 2020 01:25 PM

Healthworkers conduct routine swab testing for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) on their fellow hospital employees at the Sta. Ana Hospital in Manila on April 14, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/file photo

MANILA - Philippine Health Insurance Corp President Ricardo Morales ordered his subordinates to approach and negotiate with an anti-corruption agency that was investigating the insurance firm's alleged overpricing of COVID-19 test kits, a former official said Tuesday.

Resigned PhilHealth anti-fraud officer Thorrson Montes Keith said Morales instructed him to approach an official of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) to "rub down" the issue.

"May pagkakataon na inutusan pa ako ni Brig. Gen. Ricardo Morales na puntahan ko si Commissioner Greco Belgica para hilutin ang kaso ng PhilHealth sa overpriced testing kits," Keith said during a Senate investigation.

(There was a time when Brig. Gen. Ricardo Morales told me to approach Commissioner Greco Belgica to rub down PhilHealth's case on overpriced testing kits.)

The issue stemmed from the senators' observation that PhilHealth's COVID-19 testing packages were priced at P8,150, whereas private firms were able to buy kits for only $15 (P750) per unit.

"Inayawan ko po ang kaso at sinabi ko po... na ano na lang po tingin sakin ni Greco Belgica 'pag papakiusapan ko siya hinggil sa kaso?" he said.

(I declined to settle the case and told him... that Greco Belgica might think badly of me if I try to negotiate with him to settle the issue.)

"Namula si Brig. Gen. Morales nung sinabi ko 'yun," he said.

(Brig. Gen. Morales turned red when I said that.)

Keith described the alleged racket inside the agency as the "crime of the year," accusing some PhilHealth officials of pocketing up to P15 billion.

He did not name any official.

Morales, who also attended the Senate investigation on the alleged irregularities in the state-run insurance firm, has yet to comment on Keith's statement.

Earlier this month, the PACC found PhilHealth to have become a "basically insurance fraud" scheme after several IT and legal services officials took advantage of "defects" and "loopholes" in the system.