Gordon tags regional vice presidents as 'real' members of PhilHealth 'mafia'

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 25 2020 05:09 PM

Senator Richard Gordon speaks during a senate inquiry on March 4, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File Photo

MANILA - Sen. Richard Gordon on Tuesday tagged the Philippine Health Insurance Corp's (PhilHealth) regional vice presidents as the members of the "mafia" that is allegedly behind anomalous disbursements and corruption in the state-run insurance firm.

Regional vice presidents, especially those who have been in power for over 2 decades, "have connections to high-ranking officials in government enough to be able to sow intrigues" that lead to the ouster of PhilHealth presidents who flag wrongdoing in the agency, according to a report of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Gordon.

"Nakapag-ipon sila ng napakalaking impluwensya. 'Pag lalabanan mo sila, sisiraan ka," Gordon said in an online press conference.

"Ang modus operandi nila, pag may nag-threaten sa kanila, kukuyugin nila yan... Tingnan niyo yung cases na fina-file nila [against PhilHealth presidents], sama-sama sila (regional vice presidents)," he said.

In 2018, former PhilHealth president Celestina Jude De la Serna was accused of living in a luxurious hotel suite after she planned a reshuffle among regional vice presidents, even if her choice of residence was above board, the senator said. 

Former PhilHealth chief Roy Ferrer, who introduced an automated system that detects fraud, also wanted a revamp in the PhilHealth regional leadership, but was charged with malversation, oppression, grave misconduct, and conflict of interest, Gordon said.

Gordon's committee report noted that PhilHealth presidents are usually kicked off the board after 1 to 2 years of service, while regional vice presidents remain in their areas of assignment for decades.

Health Sec. Francisco Duque III is the longest-serving PhilHealth chief after he stayed in the position for 4 years, according to the report.

"Regional vice presidents are the kings of the region. Whatever they say goes... They have their own kingdoms," Gordon said.

The committee identified the following regional heads as members of the PhilHealth "mafia":

  • Paolo Johann C. Perez (CALABARZON)
    - Perez allegedly received an enormous box with a sexy dancer inside. The performer "gyrated provocatively in front of Perez" during his birthday party inside a PhilHealth office. A video showed Perez smiling while the skimpy-clothed girl danced during office hours.
  • Valerie Hollero (Western Visayas)
    - Falsified her Daily Time Record
    - Falsified entries in the Philhealth Board Resolutions which led to the illegal release of Salary Adjustments worth P2 billion
  • Dennis Adre (SOCCSKSARGEN)
    - Charged with Gross Neglect of Duty for negligently approving payments of 12 questionable claims of a surgeon in Tagum Doctors Hospital, Inc.
    - The Ombudsman filed a complaint against Adre for falsification in 2013 after he allegedly applied for the position of Regional Vice President of PRO XI in 1999 when he was still an undergraduate
    - served in the same post from 1998 to 2019
  • William Chavez (Central Visayas)
    - PRO VII’s turn-around time (TAT) remains high with an average of 88 days, which is beyond the national average of 33 days
    - Under the law, PhilHealth needs to process claims within 60 days
  • Jelbert Galicto (CARAGA)
    - The Ombudsman complaint filed against Dr. Ferrer by Galicto et. al., contained confidential hospital records violating the Data Privacy Act and are falsely signed as certified true copies by one Patrick Angelo Uy, a PRO XI Officer who is not the legal custodian of such documents
  • Khaliquzzman Macabato (BARMM)
    - Charged with Gross Misbehavior and Conduct Unbecoming of a Public Officer after he uttered abusive words and threatening remarks to another PhilHealth employee.
  • Miriam Grace Pamonag (SOCCSKSARGEN)
    - She initiated and approved the payment of "Christmas Packages" for PRO XII regular employees in 2016
    - She signed and/or caused her subordinate officers to sign the necessary documents despite being fully aware of its illegality on account of the Supreme Court decision affirming the COA disallowance of the CY 2016 Christmas Package of PRO XII regular employees 
  • Masiding Alonto (Zamboanga Peninsula)
    - He imposed the penalty of suspension to certain casual employees allegedly because of an infraction, even if he is not authorized to impose disciplinary actions 
    - He was tagged in the extortion case of the Medina Hospital

The same regional vice presidents were involved in the disbursement of million of funds to questionable claims from 2009 to 2020, Gordon alleged.

"They have been there for 20 years... Walang prosecution. Zero. walang nahuhuli," the senator said.

The Senate panel recommended the filing of charges against the said officials for malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance.

"Once and for all, putulin na ang leeg nitong sawang nakapasok sa manukan ng gobyerno," Gordon said.