Top PhilHealth officials notify Senate of medical conditions ahead of second hearing

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 8) — Top officials of the embattled Philippine Health Insurance Corporation notified the Senate of their health concerns, days before the legislative hearing on corruption issues within the agency resumes.

Philhealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales on Friday sent a medical certificate to the Senate Committee of the Whole informing it that he was undergoing treatment for lymphoma, cancer of the lymph nodes, and has been advised by his doctors to take a leave of absence, Senate President Tito Sotto said Saturday.

Morales told CNN Philippines he has been undergoing chemotherapy since February. He said he asked the Senate if he could join its probe virtually, specifically via Zoom, as his “immune system is compromised because of the chemo.”

Another official, PhilHealth executive vice president Arnel de Jesus, told Senate President Tito Sotto III he would not be able participate in the next Senate inquiry scheduled for Tuesday due to an “unforeseen medical emergency.”

The medical certificate obtained by CNN Philippines showed that de Jesus has been admitted in a private hospital since August 5 after being diagnosed with different cardiovascular diseases. He is in need of a surgery. 

De Jesus said in his August 7 letter to Sotto: “I will make myself available when my health permits.”

He also asked for Sotto’s understanding and consideration and that his privacy be “respected during this time.”

Their loss

Senator Panfilo Lacson said in a statement tha failure of the accused to attend Tuesday’s probe is “their loss, not the Senate’s simply because they won’t be there to respond to new issues that the resource persons will raise against them as well as to new incriminating documents in our possession.”

But Lacson said it is unfortunate that recent issues have come at a time when Morales is dealing with cancer. He added that he is praying for the official's recovery.

A resigned officer and a concurrent official of PhilHealth on Tuesday made serious corruption allegations against top executives of the agency during the Senate inquiry. Among the allegations is that its senior executives have stolen some ₱15 billion from the agency using different fraudulent schemes. PhilHealth refuted the accusation.

CNN Philippines' Joyce Ilas and Crissy Dimatulac contributed to this report