House to investigate PhilHealth OIC’s excessive travels, hotel stays

Camille Elemia
House to investigate PhilHealth OIC’s excessive travels, hotel stays


Surigao Del Norte 2nd District Representative Johnny Pimentel says he will schedule a probe in August into the lavish lifestyle of PhilHealth interim president Celestina De la Serna

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is set to investigate the excessive travels and hotel stays of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) interim president Celestina Jude De la Serna.

Negros Oriental 3rd District Representative Arnolfo Teves Jr filed House Resolution 1928 urging the committee on good government and public accountability to probe the “gross financial and operational management, corruption, as well as the proliferation of fraud through the creation of ghost members in PhilHealth.”

Surigao Del Norte 2nd District Representative Johnny Pimentel, committee chairman, told Rappler he was scheduling a hearing in August, once Congress resumes session.

Rappler first reported that De la Serna incurred at least P627,000  worth of trips to and from Bohol, as well as hotel stays, in just a year in office, despite being posted in the central office.

Resident auditors at PhilHealth have also asked De la Serna to explain her receipt of per diem during virtual meetings and allowances, which amount to almost a million pesos, including the travel expenses, broken down as follows:

1. Summary of Allowances received despite Notices of Disallowance P 143,881.17
2. Summary of Per Diem for Meeting Through Video Conference P 152,000.00
3. Summary of Local Travel Expenses Reimbursed P 627,293.04
TOTAL P 923,174.21

The controversy comes amid PhilHealth’s net loss amounting to P4.5 billion, according to the adjusted 2017 financial statement.

Teves said he was shocked upon finding out that De la Serna had been using government funds to fly from her hometown in Bohol to the PhilHealth central office in Pasig on an almost weekly basis. While in Manila, De la Serna was also staying in hotels, amounting to at least P3,800 a night.

Teves said he and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez talked to Dela Serna on Wednesday, May 30, during an event at the House of Representatives.

“She admitted to staying in the hotel for one year or more… More or less one year sa hotel siya nakatira charged to Philhealth and she said she thought it was okay, that’s why she did it,” Teves said as quoted in a news article.

Pimentel, for his part, told Rappler he also wanted to look into De la Serna’s “incompetence” and lack of knowledge. He said he wanted De la Serna out of the agency.

Noon pa marami nang nagsasabi sa akin, bago pa yan lumabas, na wala siyang alam, na grabe ang gastos nya, charged lahat sa PhilHealth. (Even before it came out, there are many people already telling me that she knows nothing, that she spends excessively all charged to PhilHealth.) I want her out of there,” Pimentel told Rappler in a phone interview.

PhilHealth is De la Serna’s first post in government. As a doctor, she had a private clinic in Bohol from 2002-2003, and was chief of two small hospitals in the province: 15-bed Maribojoc Community Hospital from 2003 to 2005 and 25-bed Congressman Natalio P Castillo Sr Memorial Hospital in 2005.

In May, Duterte already ordered a probe into the issue but has yet to reveal findings.

De la Serna is the daughter of former Bohol governor and Tagbilaran City mayor Victor de la Serna, President Rodrigo Duterte’s professor at the San Beda Law School, also now a member of the Consultative Committee on amending the 1987 Constitution. –

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a former multimedia reporter for Rappler. She covered media and disinformation, the Senate, the Office of the President, and politics.