PRRD should walk the talk


With Ali G. Macabalang

The Senate committees on public order and dangerous drugs, and national defense and security conducted an inquiry last Wednesday into the killing of four Army intelligence soldiers by police elements in Jolo, Sulu on June 29, 2020.

President Duterte has consistently pronounced his profuse hate on illegal drugs and corruption, which is something the overwhelming majority of the Filipino electorate elected him President.

What impressed more the voters was his byword for readiness to “kill” people behind the trade of illegal drugs as well as corrupt practices in public service.

But it seems that his byword coupled with his fisty stance has not discouraged some people to engage in subtle but grieve corrupt practices.

The PhilHealth, the government’s frontline program to promote and sustain a healthy nation, is a typical example where some executives seemed to have defied the President’s staunch policy against corruption.

Corruption among some PhilHealth executives has long been complained about even by people within the government health insurance entity. In the Manila Bulletin, I had written in 2018 four or five stories exposing complaints by 12 regional PhilHealth officials about alleged malpractices of their boss that time, Dr. Roy Ferrer.

The 12 complainants accused before the Ombudsman-Mindanao in October 2019 Dr. Ferrer of graft and corrupt practices, malversation of funds, abuse of authority, and grave misconduct, gross dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to public interest.

In a press statement, the 12 complainants alleged that the PhilHealth “lost P4.75-billion (in 2018)” and that the problem has been “compounded” by purported malfeasances of Dr. Ferrer.

In February 2017, they said, Ferrer was made member of the PHIC Board of Directors, but three months later he applied for and was granted a three-year PhilHealth accreditation as healthcare professional by then PHIC Regional Vice President (Davao City) Rodolfo Del Rosario Jr. Del Rosario was earlier named head of PHIC-Davao allegedly at the behest of Dr. Ferrer, they said.

They said Ferrer was appointed PhilHealth acting president/CEO by President Duterte on June 5, 2018 but he did not relinquish his healthcare accreditation, allegedly continuing to collect “professional fees” that had amounted to at least P604,080.00 in addition to his salaries and allowances worth P1.55M in 2017 alone as agency official.

The complainants had called for a Congressional probe on anomalies in PhilHealth. But the call fell on deaf ears.

In the advent of the life-taking COVID-19 pandemic, similar complaints resurfaced. This time, the House of Representatives started looking into it this month.

In the House Committee hearings, probing lawmakers like Reps. Mike Defensor and Dante Marcoleta have discovered that corruption in the PhilHealth had even involved officials in the Civil Service Commission as well as the Human Management Inc., a group organized by the Archdiocese of Manila to administer the Cardinal Santos Hospital.

In its initial hearing, the probing lawmakers have expressed profuse disgust that they vowed to file plunder case against the HMI and other officials.

It is too saddening to learn that a life-saving program is even tainted with corruption under an administration touted to be graft-buster.

The reported arbitration settlement of PhilHealth’s over payment to Cardinal Santos Hospital worth P270-million I believe is just a tip of the iceberg.

Because of easy ways to suck money from the PhilHealth, many physicians have grouped themselves and built hospitals. These hospitals started small and in less than a decade, they turned giants as to grow into several-floors of buildings.

My family has been a victim of overcharges by corporate hospitals in Region XII. In repeated cases, I had introduced myself a journalist to hospital administrators, who surprisingly cut the am9ounts of our bill into almost half.

In their admission to medical practice, Doctors are sworn to “save life” by any possible means.

But in real practices, some of these doctors have succumbed to the glitters of money.

The government prohibits the vicious practice of hospitals exacting “deposit” from patients before treatment or confinement. But some private hospitals have been defying the state policy.

President Duterte should walk his talk or exemplify his anti-corruption policy by cracking the whip on corrupt personalities under his watch. ALI G. MACABALANG

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