MANILA — Five members of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet who are overseeing PhilHealth should explain plans for the state-run medical insurer, which is “imploding” with allegations of corruption, a senator said Monday.
The board, whose “first job is to protect taxpayers’ money” by coming up with PhilHealth policies, includes the following Cabinet members, said Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto:
- Health Secretary Francisco Duque III
- Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista
- Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello
- Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez
- Budget Acting Secretary Wendel Avisado
“There should be no investigation to begin with, dapat trabaho nila ‘yon. Hindi trabaho ng Senado yun e,” Recto told ANC. "Why are we investigating PhilHealth? Napabayaan ng board siguro.”
(That should have been their job. That’s not the job of the Senate…The board may have neglected it.)
Whistleblowers in a recent Senate inquiry claimed a “mafia” embedded in PhilHealth stole P15 billion from the agency. Officials were also accused of approving millions of pesos in overpriced gadget, software and fund releases to supposedly favored hospitals.
“Look at the situation: one of the most important institutions in our health system is imploding,” said Recto.
“What about the big brothers in the Cabinet? Nag-special board meeting na ba? Are they addressing the issue already? Who are they going to appoint temporarily?” the senator asked.
(Have they conducted a special board meeting?)
PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales and Executive Vice President Arnel De Jesus earlier filed medical leaves and sought to skip the continuation of the Senate inquiry.
Over the weekend, 6 PhilHealth regional vice presidents also filed leaves of absence.
Under the law, it is up to the PhilHealth board to recommend a replacement for Morales if he quits, said Recto.
Duque chairs the board. He has to make sure that PhilHealth’s programs are aligned with that of the health department, the senator said.
“The chairman of the board… parang Senate President iyan, parang Speaker. What you say is given weight,” he said.