Gordon says PhilHealth chief may be 'scared, too cautious' to expedite P1.1-B debt payment

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 27 2020 02:25 PM

MANILA - Sen. Richard Gordon on Tuesday said Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth) President Dante Gierran's "fear" and "reluctance" to move inside the corruption-riddled agency may be delaying the settlement of the state insurer's P1.1-billion debt to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC).

A source from PhilHealth said the cheque for the PRC, which Gordon chairs, has been prepared since yesterday, but was not signed, the senator told reporters in an online press conference.

"I think natatakot siya kung sino ang pagtitiwalaan niya," Gordon said, referring to Gierran.

(I think he is scared who to trust.)

"He's like a new guy on the block surrounded by snakes, jackals. So, natatakot siyang gumalaw (so he's scared to make a move)," he added.

PhilHealth has been linked to various corruption anomalies in recent years, but Gordon said that the agency can still afford to settle its debt with the PRC because it has "a lot of money."

"They have a lot of money. Puwedeng nag-iingat masyado (It is possible that they are just being too cautious) to the point of stupidity," he said.

PhilHealth earlier promised to settle by Monday, Oct. 26, its dues for the 303,000 COVID-19 tests taken and processed by the PRC. But as of Tuesday morning, the non-government organization has yet to receive even a partial payment, Gordon said.

"I am totally perplexed why he's (Gierran) acting this way," Gordon said.

"Sobrang ingat para sa kaniya (Gierran), sobra namang reckless para sa mga taong hindi mate-test," he said.

Without the P1.1 billion payment, the PRC will be forced to cancel the shipment of 450,000 COVID-19 test kits from China, Gordon said.

"They are risking the ire of the public," he said.

Gordon said he would be "keeping his options open," but declined to confirm if he was referring to the possible filing of charges against PhilHealth.

"They are playing with fire. They are very reckless, very irresponsible," the senator said.

"I will not mention my options in public... Lawyers don't make threats, we just do it," he said.

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Last month, former PhilHealth anti-fraud officer and whistleblower Thorrson Montes Keith accused Gordon of benefitting from PRC's allegedly anomalous deal with the state insurance firm.

Gordon has denied the allegation, saying PhilHealth has never prioritized paying its dues to the PRC because the agency does not receive any kickback from the non-government humanitarian organization.

The legal office of PhilHealth has ruled that the agency's memorandum of agreement with the PRC, which was forged in May, for the provision of COVID-19 testing services is "irregular if not outright illegal."

"Contrary to existing policies and standard operating procedures in entering into contractual obligations by the Corporation, it appears from the official records and documentation so far provided, that the Legal Sector through the Internal Legal Department (ILD) neither conducted any Contract Review nor issued the required Contract Certification prior to the execution of the subject MOA between the PhilHealth and PNRC," the Office of the Legal Counsel of PhilHealth said in a 9-page "executive briefer" dated Oct. 13, 2020 addressed to Gierran, a copy of which was obtained by ABS-CBN News.

Although, last Friday, the agency said it was ready to pay the PRC after receiving the legal opinion of the Department of Justice on how to proceed with the settlement.

“Having been in receipt today of the DOJ legal opinion saying that the PhilHealth-PRC MOA is not subject to Procurement Law, PhilHealth will release payment on Monday, October 26, 2020, subject to completeness of billing requirements submitted by the PRC,” it said.

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