Corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is not only colossal thievery, robbing Filipino workers and taxpayers of their contributions to the fund. It also violates the right of Filipinos to universal health care, bleeding billions of pesos away from state resources intended for this purpose. In a pandemic that has caused thousands of deaths in our country, it violates the right to life.
PhilHealth corruption has taken many forms: diverted premium payments of up to P114 million in 2012, unnecessary or sham cataract removals worth PHP2 billion in 2014, fraudulent dialysis claims, the “upcasing” of mild respiratory infections to pneumonia, membership rosters with 500,000 people aged 100 to 121, and recently, a bid to procure overpriced and obsolete information technology equipment.
Sadly, the pandemic that is devastating our people and our economy has opened more opportunities for corruption: inordinately expensive COVID-19 test kits; an Interim Reimbursement Mechanism that expedites COVID-19 related advances to hospitals in regions with low infection rates, while hospitals in high infection areas, including government facilities, still await reimbursement.
Yet even as the Duterte administration coddles its appointee, PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales—requesting him to resign for the sake of his health—its supporters have viciously used the issue of corruption in PhilHealth against those it perceives as its enemies.
Its troll army has launched a campaign smearing former PhilHealth board member Senator Risa Hontiveros, while its legislative lackeys threaten to file cases against officials of the previous administration, even though none of these have been named by whistleblowers as parties to the corruption. The Catholic Church, which has repeatedly admonished the administration against its excesses, has not been spared the mud of obfuscation, notably slung by a congressman who represents not only the administration’s interests but also the interests of the anti-Catholic Iglesia ni Cristo.
We, the members of GOMBURZA, motivated by the Christian commitment to human dignity and good governance, support the PhilHealth employees who have demanded the investigation and prosecution of corruption, and thank them for their integrity. While we are encouraged by the suspension of the PhilHealth officials named as complicit, we call for (1) a nonpartisan investigation of the allegations against those implicated in the Senate hearings; (2) commensurate punishment for those found guilty; (3) replacement of the guilty by appointees of proven competence and integrity in the field of health insurance; (4) periodic reviews of PhilHealth’s operations by independent agencies seasoned in insurance fraud detection; (5) timely reimbursement of claims by hospitals in high infection areas; and (6) an end to the deceptive manipulation of the PhilHealth scandal to discredit the administration’s critics.
We call upon our citizens to distinguish politically motivated from evidence-backed allegations, and to demand that their legislative representatives and relevant officials defend their right to universal health care by taking swift and appropriate action.
Finally, we call on those involved in this corruption: “Do not depend on dishonest wealth, for it will not benefit you in the day of calamity” (Sirach 5:8). Repent and make reparation, restoring to Filipinos their right to universal health care, and to life.
[Sgd.] MEMBERS OF GOMBURZA: SISTER TERESITA ALO, SFIC; FR. ROBERTO REYES; FR. FLAVIE L. VILLANUEVA, SVD; LOT LUMAWIG ALLANIGUE; TERESITA S. CASTILLO; LUCIA LUCAS CHAVEZ; PERCIVAL CHAVEZ; ELEANOR R. DIONISIO; VERONICA ESTER MENDOZA; ANGELO SILVA.
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