FIRING LINE: Moral-less PhilHealth

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

What the world did not know was that PhilHealth so improved our health services that we have about 5,000 130-year-old citizens on record. And Japan thought they had the oldest living person at 117 years old! Galing ng PhilHealth!

Honestly, I didn’t expect this to come up in last Tuesday’s hearing. I thought it would have immobilized Congress, trying to find funds to appropriate half-a-billion pesos for centenarian benefits – that’s P100,000 cash for each of these “ghosts”.

Besides, PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales was not appearing at the congressional hearing, anyway. He had to heed the advice of his doctors treating him for lymphoma. I could almost hear Gloria Arroyo shouting, “No originality!” But I take that back because he’s actually having chemo. Vicious luck, huh?

What’s slightly suspicious is that his EVP and COO Arnel de Jesus is also crying health problems all of a sudden, unable to answer for even “the glitches” in PhilHealth’s computer system despite Morales’s pricey taste for IT products at the agency.

I’m not surprised they’re aching not to attend the hearing. DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra is watching, with marching Palace orders to “investigate and prosecute”. He announced that the COA and Ombudsman were already working hand-in-hand to uncover any “whiff of corruption” our President claims he so despises. Good luck with that.

Senator Panfilo Lacson wasn’t too happy about the absence of Morales and De Jesus, though. But he made sure their failure to attend Tuesday’s probe is “their loss, not the Senate’s”. True enough, they’ve missed their chance at every turn of this congressional investigation to respond to new incriminating documents.

So much for “the man of integrity” Morales was groomed to be by the PMA and expected by the President to clean up PhilHealth’s image when he appointed the retired general to the post last year. It seems that for all the moral worth of his name, Morales merely picked up from where his disgraced PhilHealth predecessor Roy Ferrer and six “mafia” board members left off after those “ghost dialysis” treatments. (Big smile from DOH Secretary Francisco Duque, if he’s reading all this. Lusot na naman!)

One of their guys at the top seemed to have grown a conscience, though, in retired Brig. Gen. Augustus de Villa, who tendered his irrevocable resignation as SVP for Operations. To borrow a millennial term – “Sana all!”

I’d dare applaud the Duterte regime if it suspends all of the PhilHealth’s top dogs as they face a full-blown investigation for alleged fraudulent dealings – the procurement of overpriced IT equipment; releases from the corporation’s Interim Reimbursement Mechanism; manipulation of PhilHealth’s financial status; and, yes! – the 5,000 130-year-old senior citizens for an all-time perpetual Guinness World Record!

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SHORT BURSTS. Farewell, “Dirty Harry”, general, mayor, director, senator, friend.

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