PhilHealth execs asked to resign as probe starts

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By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has asked the board members of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), including Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Roy B. Ferrer, to turn in their resignation, according to Senator-elect Christopher Lawrence T. Go.

The President’s decision comes amid the recent allegations of irregularities in the agency involving a dialysis center in Quezon City that supposedly claimed payments for nonexistent patients.

In a press conference on Monday afternoon, Mr. Go, formerly the special assistant to the President, told reporters that Mr. Duterte last Sunday “asked” the members of the PhilHealth Board “to tender their resignation.”

The CEO, according to Mr. Go, was included although it appears that people simply got away under his nose.

Nalusutan lang s‘ya [Mr. Ferrer] ng mga tao sa ibaba (People under him got away with it)…. Sabi naman niya ay ginawa naman nila ang lahat (He said they did their best),” Mr. Go said.

The PhilHealth board members were scheduled to meet with the President at the Palace Monday afternoon to present their report regarding the anomalous kidney treatments.

The incoming senator said he will “propose” to the President during the Cabinet meeting on Monday evening that there should be a “revamp” of the PhilHealth management “from top to bottom.”

He also said that the President wants a “retired military doctor or [a] lady police doctor” to head the agency.

For his part, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said in a press briefing on Monday morning: “What I understand is the Phil[Health] Board has been conducting investigation and, in fact, has filed several administrative complaints. They are the ones [cleaning] the PhilHealth.”

Meanwhile, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has started its probe on the alleged “ghost” recipients of the dialysis treatments at the WellMed Dialysis and Laboratory Center Corp. (WellMed).

The Department of Justice (DoJ) ordered the NBI to conduct the investigation and case build-up.

The NBI has already summoned the officers of WellMed.

Rowell D. Ilagan, lawyer of WellMed, said they will fully cooperate.

“We will cooperate in the investigation of the NBI, mas maganda na rin nasa (It is better that it is in the) proper forum,” Mr. Ilagan told reporters, adding that they have also filed their answer to PhilHealth, which is also conducting an investigation.

The lawyer said the whistleblowers are the ones who actually pocketed the money and they surfaced because they were caught.

Whistleblowers Edwin Roberto and Liezel Santos denied this.

Paano po kami maiipit sa kompanya, kami po unang nag-complain sa kanila. Unang-una, kami po nag-complain sa (How can we be cornered by the company, when we were the first to complain against them. In the first place, we were the ones who complained to) PhilHealth against them,” said Mr. Roberto, who was assistant manager at WellMed when he resigned.

The whistleblowers also said that it took them some time to reach out to PhilHealth for documentation, adding that they received death threats from one of the owners of WellMed.

The Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) is also looking into the matter, but PNP chief General Oscar D. Albayalde said they have yet to receive an order for a full-blown investigation.

“I think that is being investigated by the CIDG already,” Mr. Albayalde said in a press briefing on Monday.

Kung talagang pinapaimbestiga sa atin ‘yung buong (If we are asked to investigate the whole) PhilHealth, then why not? We have to coordinate with PhilHealth also kasi hindi naman tayo basta-basta puwede pumasok sa kanilang (we cannot just enter their) agency without their cooperation or collaboration with them,” he added. — with Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Vince Angelo C. Ferreras