President Rodrigo Duterte said he would go after corrupt officials in PhilHealth as the Senate prepared to reopen its investigation on the state-run insurer on Tuesday. Its financial viability was put under question at a time when Filipinos depend on it for a lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Duterte has so far refused to heed calls to remove PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales from his post. Morales, a retired Army general who assumed leadership of the agency last year, said he was trying to rid it of corruption.
"Wag kayong magkakamali. Itong PhilHealth, sabi ko yayariin ko kayo. Maniwala kayo. Yung mga inosente naman, wala kayong dapat iano… Tahimik lang kayo at continue working (Don't make the wrong move. Those in PhilHealth, I will go after you. Believe me. Those who are innocent, don't worry. Just keep quiet and continue working)," he said.
Allegations of overpricing in procurement are at the center of the Senate inquiry. For instance, Adobe Master Collection software was priced at P21 million compared to the approved cost of P168,000. Structured cabling cost P5 million from P500,000. Two sets of laptops were said to be worth P119.43 million.
Up to P15 billion was lost, according to one whistleblower, Thorrson Montes Keith, PhilHealth's own anti-fraud official who has since resigned. Corruption allegations in PhilHealth are not new, several years back, an alleged racket was exposed wherein the dialysis bills of ghost patients were used to cash in claims.
With increasing payouts due to the pandemic and decreasing contributions, operating losses could reach P90 billion this year and P140 billion in 2021 should the pandemic drag on, said its data protection officer Nerissa Santiago. At this rate there will be "no more reserve funds" by the end of next year, she told a hearing last week.
Morales had said that PhilHealth going bankrupt is "not going to happen." The agency will only run out of money when the government does, he said.