MANILA, Philippines — Is there more than one mafia operating in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth)?
This is what Senator Risa Hontiveros plans to “get to the bottom” of during the resumption of the Senate’s investigation into recent allegations of corruption within the state-run insurance company.
“Interesadong-interesado kami sa mga high-ranking resource persons namin… lalo na nung nagsimulang parang nagtuturuan na yung inakusahang mafia last year at yung inakusahang mafia this year,” Hontiveros told reporters in an online interview on Friday.
(We are really interested with our high-ranking resource persons..especially when they started to point fingers, those who were accused of being part of the mafia during last year’s hearing and those being accused of being a member of the mafia now.)
“Kaya lalong tumindi sa akin yung impression na ‘Teka muna, di lang ba isang alleged mafia ang nasa loob?’ Meron bang more than one na mafia, mga grupo, kaya sila nagtuturuan, nagaakusahan ngayon?” she added.
(That added to my impression that ‘Wait, is there more than one mafia inside? That’s why they’re accusing one another now?)
On the questioning of Hontiveros during Tuesday’s Senate hearing, PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales tagged two regional vice presidents as having “inordinate influence” in the agency.
The two names Morales mentioned were among the eight officials tagged by former PhilHealth President Roy Ferrer during a Senate hearing last year as part of the alleged “Mindanao group” who led a “mafia” purportedly responsible for aiding hospitals in defrauding the state health insurer of billions of pesos.
But resigned PhilHealth anti-fraud officer Thorrson Montes Keith and incumbent board member Alejandro Cabading, the Senate’s current witnesses testifying against alleged anomalies in the state insurer, claimed the officials previously named as part of the “Mindanao group” don’t have the opportunity to steal and are actually the “good guys.”
PhilHealth Senior Vice President for Legal Sector Rodolfo del Rosario, one of the resource persons in the hearing, however, stood by Ferrer’s claim.
“The people that were named by Doctor Ferrer, they were the ones…when we inventoried cases, there were cases pending against them. There were cases that remained unacted on for the longest time,” Del Rosario had said.
Keith and Cabading had earlier tagged PhilHealth’s executive committee (execom), which Del Rosario is a member of, as part of the mafia-like syndicate in the agency.
Del Rosario and the rest of the execom members had denied the allegations.
“We really intent to get to the bottom of these accusations and counter accusations para once and for all, maputol na talaga ito at para ‘di na maging annual tradition na kailangan naming mag-imbestiga sa PhilHealth,” Hontiveros went on.
(We really intend to get to the bottom of these accusations and counter accusations so that this ends once and for all, that it would not be the annual tradition of the Senate to investigate PhilHealth.)
It is crucial to ensure that the money given to PhilHealth by both the government and its members are allocated for the improvement of the country’s healthcare system and not pocketed by corrupt officials, according to the senator said.
“Alang-alang sa mga PhilHealth members at sa gobyerno rin na taun-taon ay nagre-remit sin tax revenues sa PhilHealth at nagkakaloob pa ng subsidy sa PhilHealth na ma-assure tayong lahat na as close to 100 percent as possible, ginagastos lang nang maayos ang PhilHealth money,” she said.
(For the sake of PhilHealth members as well as the government which annually remits sin tax revenues and subsidy to PhilHealth, we all need to be assured that as close to 100 percent as possible, that PhilHealth funds are spent correctly.)
The Senate, constituted as the Committee of the Whole, is set to resume its investigation on the alleged corruption in PhilHealth on August 18.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who serves as the ex-officio chairman of the corporation, is expected to attend the hearing.
“He should help us shed light on the numerous allegations of corruption in PhilHealth,” Hontiveros said.
“Kasi parang may mga grupo-grupo o mga mafia sa loob ng PhilHealth at siya (Duque) bilang may institutional memory, gusto kong malaman kung ano ang extent ng kanyang involvement o kaaalaman sa mga modus sa loob,” she added.
(Because it seems that there are groups and mafias inside PhilHealth and he is the one with the institutional memory, we want to know the extent of his involvement and knowledge about the modus happening inside.)
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