Morales, fund chief face corruption cases

SENATOR Panfilo "Ping" Lacson on Tuesday assured that Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) president Ricardo Morales and PhilHealth fund management chief face several cases for alleged corrupt practices within the agency.

​During the resumption of the investigation of the Senate Committee of the Whole on PhilHealth anomalies, Lacson debunked the previous claim of PhilHealth Senior Vice President for Fund Management Sector Renato Limsiaco Jr. that he was not aware of the agency’s obligation as a withholding tax agent when releasing funds under the interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM).

“When I countered that advance payments are subject to withholding tax, he admitted that PhilHealth had in fact remitted P156 million to the BIR last August 3, and then claimed that he charged the amount to the Corporate Operational Budget of PhilHealth. Then, he followed up with another lie – that he didn’t know that it was an obligation under the law that he had to withhold taxes. This was on August 11, Tuesday,” Lacson said in his opening statement.

To debunk the statement, Lacson showed a memorandum issued by Morales and Limsiaco which indicated that the agency has already remitted two percent of the expanded withholding tax to the BIR.

"The memorandum was dated August 7 or four days after Limsiaco patently lied to the august committee,” said Lacson.

​The senator also said Morales and Limsiaco ordered regional vice presidents to issue BIR Form 2307 to health care institutions (HCIs) which received IRM advance payments.

“Ang BIR Form 2307 ay iniisyu bilang katibayan na nakapagbayad na ng expanded withholding taxes ang isang ospital para sa kanilang IRM advance payment na tinanggap,” the senator further said.

“Kung susundan natin ang argumento ni SVP Limsiaco na wala pang buwis na nakokolekta sa mga ospital, hindi ba bukod sa pagsisinungaling, inutusan pa nila ni Gen Morales ang mga RVPs na mag-commit ng krimeng Falsification of Public Documents?” he added.

“In our foregoing inquiry about PhilHealth’s IRM, it may be a truism that when there is smoke, there is fire,” Lacson added.

​It can be recalled that PhilHealth has temporarily suspended IRM amid allegations of irregularities.

“One of the contentions of the policy is that the determination of IRM funds for HCIs, its consequent approval, and fund releases, are very centralized. It follows that the preference and prioritization of which hospitals to receive the IRM funds remain at the discretion of the Central Office,” Lacson said.

“Not surprisingly, we have observed the same pattern of preferential treatment or favoritism to certain HCIs in some regions,” he added.

Lacson warned errant PhilHealth officials of possible cases that they could face with the recommendations of the Senate once it wraps up it’s investigation.

“Mr. Limsiaco, and probably PCEO Morales, I am sorry to say, being accountable officers of PhilHealth – bukod pa sa usapin ng pag-misappropriate ng kaban ng PhilHealth para bayaran ang withholding tax na maliwanag pa sa sikat ng araw ay kasong Malversation of Public Funds or Property,” the senator said.

“Kapag isinama pati ang mga binayaran ninyo na private dialysis centers, maternity care providers at infirmaries na walang kinalaman sa COVID-19 na siyang sakop ng IRM, malamang maliligo kayo sa kaso kapag ibinahagi na ni Senate President Tito Sotto Kay Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra ang lahat na records ng proceedings ng pagdinig na sinasagawa namin ngayon,” he assured.