De la Serna, Ubial face graft complaints over Philhealth travels

Lian Buan
De la Serna, Ubial face graft complaints over Philhealth travels
The complainants accuse former health secretary Paulyn Ubial of signing disbursement vouchers to pay for the travels of erstwhile PhilHealth interim president Celestina de la Serna

MANILA, Philippines – Three counts each of graft, malversation and falsification of documents were filed against sacked Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth ) interim president Celestina de la Serna and former health secretary Paulyn Ubial over the former’s alleged unauthorized travels.

Each of the count represented one disbursement voucher (DV) to reimburse De la Serna’s travel and lodging costs when she went to Manila from Bohol. The 3 DVs contained in the complaints total P268,169. 

It was only the first batch of complaints because state auditors flagged a total of P627,000 in Philhealth funds used to pay for De la Serna’s travels.

The complaints were filed with the Office of the Ombudsman-Cagayan de Oro on Tuesday, June 5. They were filed by Philhealth regional officials  Datu Masiding Alonto Jr, Jelbert Galicto, Anshari Mangondato, Ziur Ruiz, Ian Alfredo Magno, Maria Rhodella Monsanto, and Marlon Niño Arrabaca.

The complaints allege that De la Serna was liable for graft and malversation for signing DVs despite issuances that supposedly made the payments illegal.

De la Serna flew back and forth from her hometown of Bohol and Manila, and reimbursed her travel costs as well as accommodations.

The complaints said that when De la Serna was appointed interim president, she became an officer of the corporation. Executive Order No. 248 defined Metro Manila as her permanent official station, the complaints said.

Thus, her travels from Bohol to Manila to hold meetings in the office were not legal, said the complaints. For these, the complainants want to charge De la Serna and Ubial of graft and malversation.

Ubial’s alleged liability was her signature on the documents that made reimbursements possible.

Complaints of falsification of documents were filed on the basis of supposedly “untruthful statements in a narration of facts,” which is one of the definitions under the law.

“By using and misrepresenting in the DV, itinerary of travel, certificate of travel completed, and after travel report that she was on a travel status while in Metro Manila in order to claim for travel and hotel expenses, when in fact she was not on travel status because her permanent official station is Metro Manila, Dr De la Serna made untruthful statements in a narration of facts,” the complaints said.

The complainants also accused De la Serna of coercing Philhealth’s Fund Management Sector (FMS) to release the DVs, despite the latter’s apprehension. 

“De la Serna instructed the FMS the payment of her own disbursement vouchers, annotating on the first page of the memorandum the following marginal notation: ‘Okay to process and pay,’” said the complaint.

De la Serna has been fired by President Rodrigo Duterte following the controversy. She was replaced by PhilHealth Board of Directors member Roy Ferrer. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.