Senators flag millions of pesos in PhilHealth fund disbursement to 'B. Braun'

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 11 2020 09:53 PM

Senate President Vicente Sotto III (left) chats with Sen. Panfilo Lacson before the start of the Senate Committee of the Whole hybrid hearing looking into the alleged widespread corruption at the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) on August 11, 2020. Joseph Vidal, Senate PRIB

MANILA - Senators on Tuesday questioned the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation's (PhilHealth) disbursement of millions of pesos to a certain "B. Braun Avitum," while hospitals deluged with COVID-19 patients have yet to receive funding from the state-run insurance agency.

Two B. Braun branches received nearly P25 million in advance payments for COVID-19-related expenses even when cases are pending against the said company, Sen. Joel Villanueva said while flashed a list of beneficiaries from the insurance firm. 

"Kung mayroon legal cases itong B. Braun, imaginine ninyo yung IRM limit nila milyon-milyon... nire-release 100 percent," Villanueva said during a Senate investigation.

"Kung hindi kayo convinced na mayroong kalokohang nangyayari dito, mahirap gisingin ang nagtutulug-tulugan," he said.

According to documents the senator presented, B. Braun in Benguet received an advance payment of P11.37 million on May 5, while one of its Metro Manila branches received P8.84 million and P5.30 million on May 4.

According to its official website, B. Braun is a 35-year-old company that provides "patient care... dialysis treatments, and cutting-edge healthcare products such as infusion solutions and devices, sutures, surgical instruments, value added drugs, regional anesthesia, hemodialysis machines and disposables, and clinical nutrition."

Former PhilHealth anti-fraud official Thorrsson Keith, a native of Benguet, said he has never heard of the company operating in his hometown.

"Hindi po kilala yung B. Braun na 'yun. Lahat ng nagpapaospital doon [sa Benguet] it's either sa Benguet General [Hospital], Baguio General [Hospital] or Pines City," Keith said. 

"Doon lang po sila nagpupunta, hindi sa B. Braun na 'yan," he said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said a rural bank in Balanga, Bataan received 11 payments from PhilHealth between May 2 and May 22, amounting to P9.70 million.

Keith, who earlier flagged questionable PhilHealth disbursements to the Balanga Rural Bank, said that the account may be connected to PhilHealth Senior Vice President for Legal Sector Rodolfo Del Rosario Jr.

"He has been traveling many times there," Keith said.

"Why would PhilHealth pay to a bank when there is no demand [for payment]?" he said.

Del Rosario said Keith's allegations were "preposterous."

"I categorically deny that I have any interest in any dialysis center or any health care provider," he said.

The disbursements to B. Braun came from the management and not from the legal sector, Del Rosario said.

"Ang polisiya po ay galing sa PhilHealth Board. That should be answered by those who approved this IRM," he said.

"I understand that it is a corporation. I've never met any of their principals," PhilHealth President Ricardo Morales said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III has directed the Senate Sergeant at Arms to identify the incorporators of B. Braun so that they can be summoned to the investigation next week.