PhilHealth chief's 'liquidated' remark on missing funds questioned

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 27) — Two lawmakers on Wednesday questioned the recent claim of PhilHealth chief Dante Gierran that the ₱15-billion reportedly missing from the agency's coffers were already "liquidated."

In a statement on Wednesday, Sen. Panfilo Lacson commented that "liquidated" funds do not necessarily mean that they were legally disbursed from the start.

"If public funds were spent not for Covid-19 as required under the IRM (interim reimbursement scheme), but for dialysis centers and infirmaries which are clearly not authorized, it can still be declared as liquidated, but it doesn’t mean that funds were legally disbursed," he said.

Lacson added that this is why some former and current officials of the state health insurer were recently charged by the government task force led by the Department of Justice in the first place.

On Tuesday, Gierran said in a Malacañang briefing that the funds were not missing after all, and liquidation is already at 92%.

READ: PhilHealth chief claims 'enough' funds for the year, 92% of missing ₱15B already liquidated 

"Sa totoo lang po, hindi nawawala, nandyan lang. On record po, ang utos ng Senado tsaka ng lower House, sabi i-liquidate. Sa ngayon po, 92% na ang liquidated. Kakaunti na lang po," he said.

[Translation: In fact, it's not missing, it's just there. On record, the Senate and the lower House previously instructed us to liquidate it. Now, 92% of the fund is liquidated. We're almost done.]

Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate said that the so-called liquidation "will not just erase the fact that [the fund] was anomalous in the first place." He also called on the Commission on Audit to conduct a special audit on the matter.

"The ₱15B involved in this case is even much bigger than the ₱10B Napoles pork barrel scam. A deeper investigation or audit must be conducted and those responsible be made accountable, especially since PhilHealth is again planning to hike the contribution of its members," he said.

Resigned anti-fraud legal officer Thorrsson Keith previously bared in Congressional hearings last year that the allegedly pocketed ₱15 billion covers the unauthorized release of interim reimbursement mechanisms or IRM, funds allocated for "fortuitous events" such as the pandemic, to hospitals with no recorded COVID-19 cases.

Keith said the amount also included the "bloated" budget for IT equipment, which then PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales had supposedly endorsed multiple times — a claim which Morales earlier dismissed as mere "inconsistencies" in figures.

Morales and other executive officials were slapped with administrative and criminal charges following alleged corrupt acts in the agency.