'Done with carousel of lies': Senate terminates probe into PhilHealth anomalies

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 19 2020 11:54 AM | Updated as of Aug 19 2020 04:51 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 (UPDATE) - Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday said the chamber would end its investigation into alleged anomalies in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth) to begin drafting recommendations to supervisory agencies.

PhilHealth President Ricardo Morales and other executives should "just appear" before the Department of Justice and the Ombudsman, Sotto told reporters in a text message.

"We are done with the carousel of denials and lies," he said.

"I'm formulating the committee report soon... Will forward all findings to the DOJ. Enough is enough," he said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said documentary and testimonial evidence from whistleblowers and resource persons are "sufficient" to hold corrupt officials accountable.

"The evidence, supported by official documents and testimonies provided by resource persons who testified under oath so far gathered by the Senate Committee of the Whole during the 3 weekly hearings are sufficient enough to indict people responsible, directly or otherwise for the systematic corrupt practices and malevolent acts that have practically dragged the PhilHealth to its present financial death bed," he said in a separate statement.

"Initial possible recommendations range from reorganization and restructuring of the agency to its dissolution," he said.

Allegations that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III is the "godfather" of the PhilHealth mafia, meanwhile, remains an "unsubstantiated accusation," Lacson said.

But for the Senate President, the Health chief - who has been in the PhilHealth's board since 2001 - should respond to the accusations that he was either knowledgable or complicit with the anomalies inside the state-run insurance firm.

"It's the whistleblower who should prove their accusations but because of the preponderance of circumstances and pronouncements, it's the DOH leadership that must present evidence against the accusations," Sotto said.

The Senate Committee of the Whole held 3 hearings where officials of the state-run insurance agency were grilled about the alleged overpricing of tech equipment and the release of COVID-19 funds to health facilities that did not cater to coronavirus patients.

Morales has denied that there were irregularities in PhilHealth's planned modernization program, and the inclusion of dialysis centers and maternity clinics into the agency's interim disbursement mechanism - a policy which allows the insurance firm to give advance payments to hospitals during an unforeseen crisis.

Sotto and Lacson earlier said that Morales was either clueless about what was happening inside his agency, or he has been coopted by the internal "syndicate" in PhilHealth.

President Rodrigo Duterte has called on executive agencies to investigate alleged irregularities in the government-owned corporation, which has received billions of funds, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic.