6 PhilHealth vice presidents go on leave as corruption probe continues

<i>Photo: PhilHealth PRO – I / FB</i>
Photo: PhilHealth PRO – I / FB

Six regional vice presidents of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) have filed leaves of absences effective today as authorities continue to probe the controversial state insurer for corruption allegations.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque announced the officials’ temporary departure from the government yesterday. He insisted that the six are not part of the alleged “mafia” which according to the agency’s resigned anti-fraud officer Thorsson Montes Keith, allegedly pocketed PHP15 billion (US$305 million) worth of funds paid by Filipinos to the agency in 2019. Keith blew the whistle on the alleged massive corruption scheme involving the agency’s high ranking officials earlier this month.

The six regional vice presidents have been identified as Paolo Johann Perez, from Mimaropa; Valerie Ann Hollero, Western Visayas; Datu Masiding Alonto Jr., Northern Mindanao; Kadiuzzman Macabato, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; Dennis Adre and William Chavez. Both Adre and Chavez are on “floating status” or temporarily out of work since September 2019.

The Justice Department had urged accused officials to leave their posts, which the six had heeded, Roque said.

Read: PhilHealth senior officer resigns amid billion-peso corruption probe

Earlier this month, former PhilHealth Vice President Augustus de Villa tendered his irrevocable resignation saying he wanted to spend more time with his family, amid the allegations hounding the agency.

PhilHealth is facing multiple investigations looking into Keith’s accusations of embezzlement, as well as alleged anomalies involving hospital reimbursements and overpriced purchases of medical equipment. Keith alleged that the agency’s high-ranking officials including PhilHealth President and Chief Executive Officer Ricardo Morales are involved in the billion-peso corruption scheme. Morales has denied the allegations against him and the agency.

However, amid the ongoing Senate and House hearings investigating the alleged anomalies, Morales last week filed a medical leave due to lymphoma. Then the agency’s executive vice president Arnel de Jesus last week told lawmakers ahead of a Senate inquiry that he will be unable to attend the hearings due to an “unforeseen medical emergency.” 

Over the weekend, two more PhilHealth officials who requested anonymity claimed that several doctors, hospitals, and even banks were involved in the alleged corruption scheme. The officials alleged that unscrupulous personalities had profited off the agency through the issuance of fake insurance claims and premiums. They also attested that widespread abuses in PhilHealth’s legal department and information technology office led to the proliferation of the alleged anomalies.

Earlier, Senate hearings revealed that enormous looming deficits will cause the agency to “collapse” or run out of funds by 2021. 

Meanwhile, Anakalusugan Party-list Representative Mike Defensor in today’s House committee hearings said 14 of the agency’s high-ranking officials, including de Jesus and Morales, have signed bank secrecy waivers allowing investigators to check their deposits and transactions in light of the new allegations.

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