Press Release
August 12, 2020

Bong Go says institutional reforms necessary to cure PhilHealth of corruption; supports calls to impose preventive suspension on accused officials

Senator and chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography Christopher "Bong" Go probed deeper into the allegations of widespread corruption within the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation during the second hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, August 11.

Go emphasized that institutional reforms in the organization of PhilHealth are necessary to solve the problems plaguing the agency. He also proposed the preventive suspension of PhilHealth officials accused of committing fraud to protect the integrity of the investigation to be conducted by the Task Force led by the Department of Justice.

"I think, ang problema dito, hindi makakagalaw ng maayos ang investigative bodies natin dahil nasa pwesto pa rin ang mga suspects pero hindi sila matatanggal at magkaroon ng preventive suspension," said Go.

He also proposed studying existing policies and possibly amending the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees to allow preventive suspension prior to the start of an investigation in order to prevent any undue influence.

When questioned by the Senator, PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales assured the agency's cooperation in assisting the Task Force's investigation and providing all relevant data and information needed in the Senate inquiry. Morales also expressed their openness to submit to lifestyle checks and other investigations of the government.

"[President Morales], continue working and cooperate please with the investigation of the task force. Tulungan niyo po. I know you mean well. Nilagay kayo diyan ng Pangulo para linisin ang PhilHealth. Halos taon-taon tayong nag iimbestiga dito at wala pa rin pong nangyayari. Dapat talaga meron masuspende at ma-audit lahat," said Go.

Last year, Go requested the Commission on Audit to conduct a special audit on PhilHealth's funds and submit their findings to the Office of the Ombudsman. Per COA chair Michael Aguinaldo, their efforts have been delayed by quarantine measures which prevented their auditors from accessing PhilHealth's offices.

"We have about four or five ongoing. Two of them in combination with the [National Bureau of Investigation]. 'Yun po ang mg fraud and fictitious claims on audit. We have one with the Insurance Commission for actuarial life. We have one for the case rate system to determine bakit ba ginawa talaga 'yun and whether we should abrogate," updated Aguinaldo.

"And we are also looking at their [information technology] systems because, previous to General Morales, we had encountered difficulty in accessing their IT database for various reasons. Although, recently nakaka-access na po kami," he added.

The Senator asked the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission to confirm the findings that the agency's "ineffective" legal sector had bolstered the spread of fraudulent activities. PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica said the bureaucratic red tape is creating opportunities for corruption within the agency.

"Isang nakita naming finding na ang matagal na sistema ng PhilHealth is causing a lot of opportunity for corruption. Ang dami ng steps na dinadaanan at 'yung details na dinadaanan po n'yan are all opportunity for corruption," said Belgica.

Turning back to Morales, Go asked for developments regarding the investigation of a regional vice president of the agency who is allegedly part of the PhilHealth mafia. He noted the non-rotation of RVPs may result in familiarity of an area which, in turn, could breed corruption.

Ending his questioning, Go expressed his hopes for the Senate hearing to aid in crafting necessary legislation and also support the investigation being conducted by the newly formed task force.

"Maraming mga issues na lumalabas sa mga pagdinig na ito at inaasahan natin na mas maraming gagawin na pagsilip ng buong task force and as legislators po. I hope this hearing is not only in exercise of our oversight function but also in aid of legislation," Go said.

"Bigyan po natin ng pansin ang mga bagay na pwedeng makatulong sa atin as a guide sa paggawa at pag-amyenda ng batas," he added.

In his opening statement during the inquiry, Go looked at systemic corruption as a sickness that needs to be addressed by both curative and preventive measures.

"Hindi dapat natatapos dito sa paggamot ang gagawin natin. Kailangan na rin nating gumawa ng mga hakbang para magkaroon ng 'vaccine'. In other words, kailangan ng preventive measures para hindi na ito mangyari pang muli. Isa na nga po dito ang transition to e-governance to minimize red tape and eliminate corruption," Go said.

Noting PhilHealth's proposed transition to e-governance by adopting information technology tools which seek to reduce bureaucratic delays, improve accuracy of its database and eliminate corruption in the agency, Go said that it must be ensured that the proposed shift and the procurement of such IT equipment will also be free from corruption.

Meanwhile, Go said he was informed that the National Bureau of Investigation has submitted a report to the Office of the President on the various investigations conducted by the bureau on PhilHealth-related anomalies. The NBI has also created its own task force focused on PhilHealth that can assist the Task Force earlier created by the President.

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