FIRING LINE: New era in PhilHealth

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr. 

Are you kidding me right now? Department of Health Secretary and PhilHealth Chairman Francisco T. Duque III says he supports newly-appointed PhilHealth President Dante Gierran in “ferreting out the scalawags” in the state medical insurance firm.

Seriously, is Duque on drugs, too?

Senate President Vicente Sotto III made it clear that, following its marathon hearings on anomalies in the PhilHealth, the Senate is recommending the filing of corruption charges against top PhilHealth executives. By special mention, Duque is among the “scalawags” referred to by distinguished members of the august body.

In response, the DOH Secretary slammed the Senate committee of the whole for including him in its recommendation. He even had the gall to say he maintains “zero tolerance for fraud and corruption”.

It seems he thinks the public is oblivious of his past involvement in the health card scheme during the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo or the business dealings of his family-owned companies with the DOH and PhilHealth – which reeks of conflict of interest, as pointed out by Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

Some people in big places may buy his denials or enjoy the benefits of his “innocent” complicity to multi-billion fraud run by the so-called “mafia” in the PhilHealth.

But does he think he can squeak himself out of this mess and sweet talk PhilHealth’s new president?

No siree! Not this time. Gierran, a lawyer and accountant, rose from the ranks to head the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). I have the highest respect for his integrity and his seeing through the teeth of lies and deceit.

As far as Gierran is concerned, he is on a wrecking ball mission from President Duterte, who ordered him to begin the demolition of “the syndicate” by axing all of PhilHealth’s regional vice presidents.

Duque can play the innocent card all he wants, but what he faces, along with resigned PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo C. Morales, Senior Vice Presidents Renato Limsiaco and Israel Francis Pargas, Executive Vice President and COO Arnel de Jesus, SVP Jovita Aragona, and Acting Senior Manager Calixto Gabuya, is a whole-government assault.

The Senate report implicates them all and recommends criminal and administrative charges. The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Commission on Audit (COA) are conducting their tag-team investigation. And the President himself installed a no-nonsense PhilHealth boss in Gierran, who is sure to employ his NBI smarts to pick them apart.

Hopefully, we’re seeing a new era in the PhilHealth.

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