Philhealth execs cleared from corruption charges while millions starve because of the pandemic

As the Philippines slowly recovers from both the macro- and micro- economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and of course, as a direct result of China’s poor policy-making, the Duterte regime has yet again become the center of corruption scandals and political dramas. The Congress has been the center of shameless power struggles these past weeks. One of the most abhorrent scandals we have seen amidst the pandemic has been the exposé made by a former Philhealth official about a P15-billion plunder attributed to many of Duterte’s newly-appointed officials in Philhealth. Can you even imagine that amount and how many of our starving kababayans that money can feed many times over?

“Naniniwala po ako na ang perang winaldas at ninakaw ay humigit kumulang ₱15 billion,” said Torsion Montes Keith, testifying before the Senate Committee.

Former Duterte-appointee Philhealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales also allegedly instructed the now whistleblower and former anti-fraud legal officer, Keith, to talk to PACC to amend a pending case involving the agency’s overpriced COVID-19 testing kits.

That’s a whopping $288.7 Million out of the country’s coffers straight to Duterte’s appointees in Philhealth. Duterte wasn’t even upset at this alarming exposé, nor did it anger any of his associates who in the past have been fire-branding opposition officials for being massively corrupt and elitist. Here they are now, completely inept when it comes to investigating Duterte appointees and allies implicated in corruption.

Keith claimed that the ₱15 billion covers the unauthorized release of interim reimbursement mechanisms or funds allocated for “fortuitous events” such as the pandemic, to hospitals who have not yet recorded COVID-19 cases. The amount also included the alleged overpriced information technology systems the agency proposed to purchase, he added.

Also, lawmakers found it questionable that some institutions that are non-COVID-19 health facilities, or reported few COVID-19 cases, received large amounts of funding and received payments within just a few days compared to others. They also questioned why some hospitals that didn’t have PhilHealth accreditation and have pending cases of alleged anomalous monetary claims also received funding under the mechanism.

PhilHealth plays a vital role in the Philippines’ health agenda, and is funded by direct and indirect paying members. Indirect paying members are those whose contributions are paid for or shouldered by government or private entities.

Just imagine how these copious amount of funds could have been spent for the betterment of Filipino lives and welfare, instead of winding up in someone else’s bank account. This is utterly reprehensible.

There’s no greater treachery and betrayal towards the country committed by these officials. They have blatantly denied allegations, justified the theft in Philhealth, and went as far as to discredit whistleblowers in attempts to re-angle public outrage.

We know that basically every branch of the government including PhilHealth has always mired with corrupt and plundering executives and officials. It has always been like this in the past, which is why people answered the call for change and voted for a strongman like Duterte, thinking that he would bring about his promised change. Filipinos have been scammed of this promised change.

Former Philhealth top honcho Morales himself once said:

“Corruption was there in the PhilHealth organization before I came in, and may stay if we don’t put a proper system in place,”

So in short, Morales is an ineffective and useless PhilHealth exec after all. Why did Duterte appoint him to that position? Why Morales only bring this up now that he is at the heart of a billion-peso corruption scandal?

For the record, I don’t condone any forms of corruption whether it be of the present and previous administration. I believe that these officials should be answerable to the people and not the President.

Instead of apologizing and laying bare to the public the true extent of the scandal, Morales himself kowtowed to Duterte in hopes of getting a free pass from all of this. Of course, he did get a free pass: Duterte allowed him to resign and scot free from this mess. Adding insult to injury, it’s now reported that 4 PhilHleath execs have been cleared of graft charges

The Sandiganbayan has acquitted four Philhealth officials of graft charges in connection with alleged unlawful car insurance payments amounting to P720,878 from 2000 to 2001. In a 36-page decision promulgated on Oct. 16, the anti-graft court’s Special Second Division cleared former PhilHealth senior vice president for management service sector Reynaldo Dalma and former vice president for finance and now vice president for South Luzon and National Capital Region Gregorio Rulloda of nine counts of violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

What an insult to the justice system and poor taxpaying working class? Millions of Filipinos are on the streets trying to find a living out of this desolate post-COVID-19 world. Lack of support from the government resulted into nightmarish scenes of crimes committed by people desperate to earn easy money to feed their starving families.

I think the Duterte administration isn’t doing its purpose and with all respects aside. Duterte in his weak and sickly stature, is grossly incompetent, and should allow the Constitutional process takes place and let the Vice President take the reins for perhaps complete transparency in the PhilHealth scandal probe and of course a better tomorrow for us all

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