By Tracy Cabrera
EVEN as government has initiated investigations on alleged irregularities in the country’s premier health insurance firm, the head of the Catholic Church’s social arm in the Philippines is calling for “justice and accountability” following allegations of widespread corruption by high-ranking government officials involved with the country’s universal health coverage scheme.
It is alleged government figures were involved in defrauding the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) out of billions of pesos, following an admission by PhilHealth’s president, retired Philippine Army brigadier general Ricardo Morales, that “there is always corruption” in the agency.
In a statement, Caritas Philippines national director Kidapawan Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo tagged the insurance scheme as riddled with corruption because government officials were selfish enough to think that they “could always get away with it.”
Bagaforo was referring to alleged fraud in PhilHealth involving the delaying of salaries and overpriced budget proposals for information and communication technology projects.
Whistleblower and PhilHealth employee Thorsson Montes Keith revealed last August 4 that a ‘mafia’ or organized crime had stolen 15 billion pesos (US$300 million) from a PhilHealth fund allotted for care for the poor during the coronavirus pandemic.
He also claimed PhilHealth’s funds would run out by 2022 as a result of the anomalies and decreased collections and higher payouts due to Covid-19 hospitalization bills.
“We expect that by 2021 we will already be in the red already, so it’s only one year . . . in terms of actuarial life,” Keith said.
Bagaforo said officials facing investigation in connection with the scandal must be suspended.
“We are in solidarity with all sectors in calling for the suspension of these officials to give way to an independent investigation of the graft allegations,” he enthused.
Kidapawan’s prelate called on government authorities “to uncover the truth, serve justice and make everyone involved accountable.”
“The public cannot always be at the receiving end of corruption in the government. It is utterly devastating that cases of this scale and magnitude can prevail in public offices where accountability should have been the primary measure of moral aptitude,” Bagaforo concluded.