MANILA - Some members of President Rodrigo Duterte's Cabinet who are part of the PhilHealth board "almost never" attend meetings, depriving the state health insurer of a "strategic vision," its resigned chief said Tuesday.
The PhilHealth board is chaired by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, and members include Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado.
"They have representatives in the board. The principals rarely, almost never attend except for the chairman who’s the Secretary of Health," said Ricardo Morales, who resigned as PhilHealth CEO and President over health issues amid corruption investigations at the state health insurer.
"Very rarely do the principals themselves attend so the quality of discussion in the board is you know, tactical… We lack the strategic vision of the heavyweights," he told ANC.
Whistleblowers in a recent Senate inquiry claimed a “mafia” embedded in PhilHealth stole P15 billion from the agency. Morales and other officials were also accused of approving millions of pesos in overpriced gadgets, software and fund releases to supposedly favored hospitals.
“There should be no investigation to begin with" if the PhilHealth board did its job, Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said last month.
"Dapat trabaho nila ‘yon. Hindi trabaho ng Senado 'yun eh... Why are we investigating PhilHealth? Napabayaan ng board siguro," he said.
(That should have been their job. That’s not the job of the Senate…The board may have neglected it.)
PHILHEALTH BOARD SHUNNED EXTERNAL PARTNER
The PhilHealth board had "balked" at Morales' proposal to tap "an external partner, a management consulting firm with global reputation," he said.
"A partner that would not, hindi niya sisirain iyong pangalan niya (destroy its name) to get involved in any irregularity, that kind of partner, that is what we were looking for," said Morales.
"We didn’t get support for that. Kailangan ng pera e (money was needed)," he said.
Morales, who Duterte asked to resign last week, maintained that he had no ties with the alleged PhilHealth mafia. He said he suspended some officials for alleged fraud, but the internal investigation against them "did not come up with anything."
"What’s the evidence? Who co-opted me?" said Morales. "I deny that. I have not been absorbed into the system. I have been trying to change the system."
"I had plans, but unfortunately… nature has its own schedule," said the former Army general, who was appointed to helm PhilHealth in 2019.
President Rodrigo Duterte has named former National Bureau of Investigation Director Dante Gierran to head the agency.