Gordon calls for Philhealth revamp

August 20, 2020
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THE longstanding problems of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) are due in part to its inability to punish and prosecute regional officials involved in irregularities.

Officials, Sen. Richard Gordon revealed, had refused to be reassigned and had resisted efforts by previous PhilHealth presidents to institute reforms in the graft-prone institution.

“Kaya tayo nagkakaloko-loko kasi wala tayong napapakulong. Now let me just point out right away na itong nangyayari sa PhilHealth, matagal na nangyayari yan,” said Gordon.

At the taillend of Senate hearings on the PhilHealth controversy on Tuesday night, Gordon lamented that PhilHealth regional vice presidents had remained unpunished despite reports of irregularities in their respective jurisdictions.  

The senator revealed that the overpayment of PhilHealth reimbursements was obvious in the cases of medical facilities in Mindanao, such as Olegario General Hospital in Misamis Oriental and Eastern Sun Medical Center in Zamboanga. The former received P38.2 million in reimbursements despite cases amounting to only P5 million, while the latter was reimbursed P24.9 million for cases totaling only P4.7 million.

Gordon said that the two officials responsible for overseeing the areas––PhilHealth Regional Office X Regional Vice President (RVP) Masiding Alonto Jr. and PhilHealth Regional Office IX Acting RVP Edgardo Faustino––had yet to be held accountable for the transactions.

Aside from the overpayments, Gordon also slammed another area official for allowing lewd entertainment during a birthday party held during office hours at the Region IV PhilHealth office.     

An exasperated Gordon said “did we ever punish these people? Did we ever investigate them? Have we ever prosecuted anybody? The answer, sir, is no. Zero ang prosecution. Zero!”

The fiery senator said that previous attempts to reassign PhilHealth regional officials had met resistance by entrenched RVPs that had filed cases against PhilHealth chiefs in the past––which explains the short stints of PhilHealth presidents.

“I am just trying to show the public eto ang nangyayari na dapat malaman ng publiko. Talagang umaalingasaw ang PHIC dahil tagal-tagal na ng mga regional directors; hindi mailipat, pag nililipat, kinakasuhan,” said the legislator.

“That is why lumalabas po ang mga presidente ng PhilHealth, one and a half year. Consider Mr. Banzon, ADB (Asian Development Bank) po yan, kinuha sa ADB, pinatanggal po yan. Ang daming tinanggal dyan. Isa’t kalahating taon, dalawang taon, tanggal kaagad,” added Gordon.

“Lahat ng kasalanan hindi ginagalaw, hindi ginagamot, that is why we are in this hole right now, Mr. President. Talagang nakakasuklam, Mr. President.”

Among the PhilHealth presidents Gordon enumerated that had served short stints in the agency were Lorna Fajardo, Dr. Rey B. Aquino, Dr. Eduardo Banzon, Atty. Alexander Padilla, Rep. Janette Garin, Ramon Aristoza Jr., Dr. Hildegardes Dineros, Dr. Celestina Ma. Jude De la Serna, and Dr. Roy Ferrer.

Gordon stressed that “every time someone is transferred, kawawa talaga ang presidente. Pipilitin nila matanggal ang presidente.” 

“And as you can see the record, the highway of the terms of the president is strewn with the dead bodies of the presidents who were removed.”

Following the revelations, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III asked Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, “when there is a regional director who is being removed, and the recourse they usually do is to go to court, to ask that a TRO be issued, is that how it is, Sec. Duque?”

Sotto added, “for example, the number of years the leaders were trying to overhaul the system by replacing or reassigning the regional directors and then a TRO comes along... ano nangyayari sa mga yun? Wala?”

Duque answered in the affirmative and informed Sotto that “you cannot transfer them with a court injunction.”

Gordon said that in light of the widespread and systemic corruption in the agency, he would recommend a total overhaul of PhilHealth.

“Dapat matanggal na lahat ng loko-loko dyan. Get the rascals out, Mr. President. Overhaul it.”