Press Release
August 19, 2020


It's high time to change the leadership at the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to preserve the integrity and resources of the state insurer enmeshed in multi-billion peso corruption scandal, Sen. Grace Poe said.

"'Pag ikaw ay isang doktor at nag-oopera ka, biglang nanginig ka, di ba pinapalitan ang surgeon. Kasi, hindi porke't naumpisahan n'ya, s'ya na iyon. If you are doing more damage than good, then it's already a signal that you need to be replaced," Poe said in a news forum Wednesday.

The senator said a purge at the agency would adhere to the administration's policy of zero-tolerance for corruption.

"I hope in the coming days, there will be better appointments of the ones who will lead our agencies--based on qualifications, reputation, and not recycling certain individuals to different departments even if that's not their specialty. And the President is saying he has zero tolerance for corruption," Poe stressed.

In a series of Senate inquiries, the senator noted that "overwhelming evidence" already surfaced pointing to the possible culpability of some executives, including the agency's head, in the mismanagement and misuse of funds.

On Tuesday's hearing, Dennis Adre, PhilHealth regional vice-president in Davao City, bared that the agency started incurring losses in 2004 due to the non-payment of premiums after the distribution of five million insurance cards ahead of the elections.

Irregularities were also revealed by several witnesses and from documents on the payment of hospitals and healthcare facilities through the interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM) for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients.

A former antifraud officer also revealed the so-called mafia in the agency, whose members allegedly defrauded PhilHealth of billions of pesos.

"There is one hospital in the south that received more in support compared to PGH (Philippine General Hospital), can you imagine? They have less bed capacity, they have less infections and yet they get more than PGH. That, in itself, is very glaring," Poe said.

"Hospitals that do not even offer anything aside from dialysis or maternity will receive funding from the DOH. Hospitals that have no SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) registration or who've had violations received support from the DOH while others that are legitimate, government hospitals that are in need of repair are not getting it, but private hospitals are. So, obviously there is more than just a discrepancy going on. There is something illegal going on," Poe added.

Poe said the state-run health insurance agency needs leaders who are not tainted with corruption and devoid of vested interests, especially in these times when PhilHealth is at the core of the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Crucial to the country's recovery amid the COVID-19 backlash is the government's effective response, not only the Filipino people's resilience, Poe said.

"If the people's response has been overwhelming, government should reciprocate with better performance," Poe said.

"No other people have worn their masks with discipline as we Filipinos have. No other people have endured the longest and lockdown as we Filipinos have," she added.

Poe said the country never ran out of volunteers who have come forward to donate food, face shields, school materials, medicines. Those who have vehicles have provided free transportation to health workers and other frontliners.

"Kulang ng pagkain, we became a nation of urban farmers overnight. Kulang ng face masks, we dusted off our sewing machines. Walang masakyan pauwi, tumira sa ilalim ng flyovers ng isang buwan. Nakipagsiksikan sa grandstand na walang reklamo. Pumila sa checkpoints araw-gabi. Inulan sa pier habang nag-aabang ng barko," she said.

"Ano pang hahanapin mo sa Pilipino? What is missing in the equation? A better government response. Na kayang sabayan ang determinasyon ng mamamayan. A government that can march in lockstep with a people determined to fight their way out of this crisis," Poe stressed.

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