Drilon calls on PhilHealth officials tagged in alleged corruption to take a leave
SENATE MINORITY Leader Franklin M. Drilon called on Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) officials tagged in alleged corrupt practices in the agency to take a leave while investigations are ongoing. In an online briefing Wednesday, Mr. Drilon said a leave of absence will prevent them from tampering with documents. Separate probes on PhilHealth are being undertaken by the two chambers of Congress as well as a special task force created upon the order of the President. Mr. Drilon also said there is no evidence so far that directly links PhilHealth President Ricardo C. Morales to the irregularities. “There is no evidence that Morales is directly involved, but it is clear to me that the people around him are doing something else. In street language, napapaikutan si Mr. Morales (is being deceived),” he said. Some PhilHealth officials, however, may be liable for graft for entering into disadvantageous contracts over the implementation of the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) and procurement of overpriced items, he said. The IRM, which was meant to provide advanced payment to health facilities amid the pandemic, was allegedly used to benefit facilities that had no coronavirus disease 2019 patients. “What I can assert is the corruption is endemic and systemic… I doubt whether a change of president or board members would be sufficient,” he said. Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, for his part, said the IRM should be suspended while the government determines the proper computation of the funds that should be released to medical institutions across regions. “We should suspend the release of the IRM until we can come out with the proper formula and accountability measures,” Mr. Zubiri said at a separate online briefing.
Meanwhile, the Palace on Wednesday defended that there is “nothing irregular” in the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) having received the biggest IRM at P326 million considering that it is the biggest government-run hospital in the country. “Historically, SPMC has had the biggest amount of claims due to its regular provision of healthcare services to patients all over Mindanao,” he said. SPMC, located in President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s hometown Davao City, has a 1,500-bed capacity, almost 3,600 personnel, and several specialized institutes such as on heart, orthopedic and rehabilitation, cancer, and an isolation building for emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. It was one of the first five medical facilities to be accredited for COVID-19 testing. It is also designated as the only COVID-19 referral hospital for Davao City, with all other hospitals just serving as back-up should patients exceed SPMC’s capacity. Mr. Roque said the hospital also has the highest PhilHealth income, reaching P1.2 billion in 2018-2019. — Charmaine A. Tadalan and Gillian M. Cortez
Roque says coronavirus situation ‘not as bad’, citing US, Brazil
PALACE SPOKESPERSON Harry L. Roque said the coronavirus outbreak in the country, with the number of cases the highest among southeast Asian nations, is “not as bad” when compared with the United States and Brazil — the two countries with the worst outbreaks globally. “We are not as bad as countries that we consider as role models, including the United States which has now the highest number of cases and the highest number of deaths,” he said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday. Mr. Roque added that in comparison with Brazil, which has a similar population density per area as the Philippines, the government here took steps that prevented millions in potential cases. The Philippines as of Aug. 12 ranked 22nd among 188 countries/regions in terms of positive coronavirus cases, based on the John Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center. — Gillian M. Cortez
46 immigration employees positive for COVID-19
THE BUREAU of Immigration reported on Wednesday that 46 of its employees, stationed at offices and airports around the country, have tested positive for coronavirus. In a statement, Commissioner Jaime H. Morente said none have died of the disease, nine have recovered, and the rest are still in quarantine facilities or hospital. “We are doing our best in seeing to it that health protocols aimed at preventing the spread of the virus are strictly observed in our offices and workplaces,” Mr. Morente said. Half of those who were infected are assigned at the main office in Manila and the rest are posted in international airports in Pasay City and Cebu, and satellite and extension offices. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas