PhilHealth chief denies execs pocketed ₱15B

August 06, 2020

CNN PHILIPPINES —The head of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. on Thursday refuted allegations that its senior officials have stolen some ₱15 billion from the agency.
In a statement, PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales denied "in strongest terms" that its senior officials have pocketed such hefty amount from the state insurance agency, as claimed by resigned anti-fraud legal officer Thorrsson Keith during Tuesday's Senate hearing.

READ: Whistleblower claims ₱15 billion stolen by PhilHealth execs in fraud schemes Morales reasoned that Keith, who was only hired as a job order contractor to do staff work under the Office of the President, "is in no position to discuss office matters" with only a nine-month stay within PhilHealth.

"His malicious claims not substantiated by evidence were obviously made to malign officers that rejected his ambitions for higher offices which he is not qualified for," Morales said.

The PhilHealth chief made the same line of defense during the congressional deliberations in the last two days, claiming that Keith was just being vengeful due to a rejected promotion.

During the hearing by the Senate Committee of the Whole, Keith bared that the ₱15 billion covers the unauthorized release of interim reimbursement mechanisms or IRM, funds allocated for "fortuitous events" such as the pandemic, to hospitals with no recorded COVID-19 cases.

The amount also includes the alleged "bloated" budget for IT equipment, which Morales had supposedly endorsed multiple times — a claim which he earlier dismissed as mere "inconsistencies" in figures.

Morales also denied that there was "favoritism" in the release of IRM funds among hospitals, and said that PhilHealth regional offices have been given flexibility in the timing of liquidations.

"Contrary to reports that hospitals no longer need to account for these funds, the IRM is governed by government accounting and auditing rules, hence, it is subject to liquidation by its recipients," he added.

The House Committee on Public Accounts also covered similar controversies hounding the PhilHealth in a separate probe on Wednesday.

Morales had earlier appealed to lawmakers to give them support and compassion, while they try to address fraud allegations and other corrupt schemes involving the agency's officials.

"Sana ho, tulungan natin ang PhilHealth, tulungan. 'Wag pagtulungan," he said.