Editorial: Demand the P15 billion back

DURING a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, August 4, it was revealed by former Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) employee Thorrsson Montes Keith that an internal "mafia" had stolen around P15 billion from the state-owned company.

PhilHealth board member Alejandro Cabading also testified against Morales, saying he supported a proposed supplemental budget for the purchase of overpriced ICT (information and communications technology) items in April.

Cabading showed a list of the overpriced items compared to the amounts approved under the information system plan of the Department of Information and Communications Technology, as follows: Adobe Master Collection software - P21 million compared to approved cost of P168,000; Application servers and licenses - P40 million compared to approved cost of P25 million; Structured cabling - P5 million compared to approved cost of P500,000; Identity Management software - P42 million compared to approved cost of P20 million; Office Productivity Software - P21 million compared to approved cost of P5 million; and Application servers and virtualization licenses - P25 million compared to approved cost of P14.8 million.

It was also revealed by Nerissa Santiago, PhilHealth senior vice-president for actuarial services, that the state-owned company will be operating in the red in 2021. She blamed lesser contributions and a large amount of Covid-19 payouts for this.

The state-owned agency, when asked by Senate Minority Floor Leader Franklin Drilon what it has in mind to save it from collapsing, Santiago replied by saying that it is now up to the government to "keep PhilHealth afloat."

She said unless the government increases its yearly P71-billion subsidy, PhilHealth will inevitably collapse.

"This is really a cause of concern for the entire country. I am dumbfounded," Drilon said.

We are dumbfounded too, senator. The agency that was supposed to help Filipinos in terms of the financial aspect of healthcare is in danger of collapsing and those in the alleged "mafia" have carted away billions of pesos that could be used to treat Filipinos.

With funds mismanaged and corruption rife within it, Philhealth has the audacity to ask help from the government. Funds that would still be coming from the Filipino people. Funds that the corrupt officials within Philhealth could steal again.

The Filipino people must demand from those alleged Philhealth "mafia" to return the P15 billion that has been stolen. Likewise, the government must punish them using the full extent of the law. This is billions that we are talking about. Billions of pesos that could have been used for the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

What we are seeing unravel in front of us is the consequences of the corruption allegedly done by PhilHealth officials. As their pockets grew bigger, the Filipino people suffer. They have the means to support their medical bills if they get sick. However, for the ordinary Filipino, this is their only means to avail of medical assistance when needed.

"We are here again at the 'annual bash PhilHealth frenzy'. Tulungan ho natin ang PhilHealth. Kung maaari ho, wag pagtulungan," PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales said.

No sir, this is not the "annual bash PhilHealth frenzy." This is called the "annual demand for PhilHealth to be accountable for the hard-earned money of the Filipino people."

"It is absolutely outrageous and offensive that in the midst of our fight against a dreaded disease that has so far infected over 100,000 of our people, killed over 2,000 people, claimed over five million jobs, and brought hunger to over 5 million families, the agency mandated to provide health insurance coverage and ensure accessible health care services for Filipinos continues to be haunted by controversies," Drilon said.

We hope the government will act on this swiftly and make people accountable for the money lost. Money that could be used to treat Filipinos amid the Covid-19 pandemic.


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