Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has chided the officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) for using the alleged diversion of its funds to the Department of Health (DOH) during the past administration as a “convenient scapegoat” to cover up for their own inefficiency and incompetency.
De Lima said the PhilHealth Board, along with DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III, have put themselves up to the “big task” of proving that PhP10.6 billion was actually diverted from PhilHealth funds to the DOH.
“It is a big task because it appears that the diversion is non-existent; it never happened,” she said in her latest Dispatch from Crame No. 320.
“The alleged diversion of said funds which, in the first place, have neither been earmarked specifically for the PhilHealth nor even released to it, serves as a convenient scapegoat for the poor performance of the present crop of PhilHealth managers,” she added.
At last week’s joint congressional review, PhilHealth officials alleged that in 2015, then Health Secretary Janette Garin and then PhilHealth President Alex Padilla wrote to the Department of Budget and Management requesting that the P10.6 billion initially intended for senior citizens be used instead for the construction of rural health units.
Duque, on his part, claimed the letter signed by his predecessor and the Philhealth executive is “evidence by itself” that the P10.6 billion funds for the expanded Senior Citizens Act was diverted from its original use.
Yet, according to Garin, the unprogrammed funds subject of the letter-request were not exclusive to PhilHealth but for health expenditures made available both to the DOH and PhilHealth.
De Lima explained that “what were used for the construction of rural health units were not the unprogrammed funds referred to in Garin’s and Padilla’s letter-request, but savings from the [Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund]. In no way can MPBF savings be considered for the exclusive use of PhilHealth’s Senior Citizens Fund.”
The Senator from Bicol criticized PhilHealth Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer Ruben Basa for blaming PhilHealth’s bad financial shape on the alleged diversion of the PhP10.6-B fund.
“Up to 2016, PhilHealth was operating on an even keel, spending well within what it was collecting. If the agency is now in a dire financial situation, it is the present PhilHealth Board that has a lot of explaining to do, because the problem only arose during this administration,” she said.
De Lima maintained that blaming the Aquino administration for the inefficiency of its own officials is already “a discredited excuse of the Duterte administration in denying its own accountability.”
“Two years into the Duterte administration, the people are already fed up with Duterte officials blaming the past administration. By now, it is already clear who are enriching themselves at the expense of the taxpayers’ money,” she said.
“This blame-game feeds itself on the constructed myth of so-called ‘dilawan’ corruption that was maliciously propagated since the 2016 presidential campaign,” she added.