AMLC to scrutinize bank accounts of PhilHealth execs

THE Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) may scrutinize soon without any legal impediment the bank accounts of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) officials amid corruption allegations that rocked the state agency.

Some PhilHealth officials who attended the hybrid joint hearing Wednesday of the House committee on good government and public accountability and on public accounts submitted to the challenge of Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte for them to sign bank secrecy waivers.

“If they’re innocent and not hiding anything, are they willing to sign a document that [the] AMLC can check their bank deposits?” Villafuerte asked.

Although PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales registered his attendance via Zoom, he was no longer in the joint hearing before Villafuerte could ask him.

The committee secretary of the House public accounts said Morales, who was advised by his doctor to undergo chemotherapy after being diagnosed with Diffuse Large B cell lymphoma, was not feeling well. Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor,chairman of the House committee on public accounts, lamented that more PhilHealth officials are now suffering from various health concerns.

“Kanina po nandiyan si PhilHealth legal sector chief [Atty. Rodolfo] Del Rosario Jr. So ang may sakit na sa inyo, General Morales, [PhilHealth executive vice president and COO Arnel] Mr. De Jesus [at] ngayon naman na-high blood si Senior Vice President Del Rosario, tama po ba?” Defensor asked after del Rosario left the hybrid hearing before the interpellation of House Minority Leader and Manila Rep. Bienvenido “Benny” Abante Jr.

During the joint hearing, de Jesus asked for break to replace the battery of his pacemaker while del Rosario suffered high blood pressure.

Either physically present at the plenary hall of the House of Representatives or via Zoom, the following PhilHealth officials vowed to issue bank secrecy waivers: Israel Francis Pargas, senior vice president for health finance and policy sector; Nerissa Santiago, acting senior vice president for actuarial services; Jovita Aragona, senior vice president and chief information officer; Renato Limsiaco Jr, senior vice president for fund management sector; Walter Bacareza, area vice president for the Visayas; Shirley Domingo, vice president for the Corporate Affairs Group; Gilda Diaz, vice president for the Office of the Actuary Oscar Abadu Jr., vice president for the Member Management Group; and Jonathan Mangaoang, corporate secretary.

Supporting Villafuerte’s call, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers moved to expand the challenge by including PhilHealth regional officers to also sign bank secrecy waivers to allow AMLC to scrutinize their bank records.

Defensor tasked the committee secretariat to send letters to all PhilHealth board members, executive committee members, and regional officers to inquire on their willingness to check their bank accounts.

Citing rates system being seen as the source of graft and corruption, Defensor told the previous joint panel hearing Wednesday last week that PhilHealth allegedly lost some P153 billion to overpayments to hospitals and fraud in just five years.

Defensor said at least P150 billion were lost to overpayments and more than P50 billion to fraud between 2013 to 2018 based on the reports of the Commission on Audit (COA).

Under the all case rates system, Defensor explained that PhilHealth pays hospitals based on fixed package rates even if the patient has incurred a lower hospitalization bill.

“Believe me, you will have problem with the all case rates program,” Defensor told PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales during the committee’s hearing held at the Session Hall of the House of Representatives that was physically attended by few lawmakers and others via Zoom. “All of it will go to corruption for as long as there is an all case rates (system),” Defensor lamented During Tuesday of last week’s Senate hearing, Atty. Thorrsson Montes Keith, a former PhilHealth anti-fraud legal officer, told senators that all members of PhilHealth’s executive committee composed the “mafia” which has siphoned off some P15 billion in the agency’s funds in 2019 alone.

While all case rates system is not Morales’ “fault” since it started in 2011, Defensor said the system should be stopped now.