Resigned officer says PhilHealth chief ordered him to 'massage' overpriced testing kits issue

Testifying in the Senate hearing on alleged corruption at the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) on Tuesday, August 4, former anti-fraud officer Thorsson Montes Keith said that PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales ordered him to "massage" the issue on supposedly overpriced COVID-19 testing kits.

"May pagkakataon na inutusan pa po ako ni Brigadier General Ricardo Morales na puntahan ko si Commissioner Greco Belgica para ang hilutin ang kaso ng PhilHealth sa overpriced testing kits," Keith said. 

(There was an instance that Brigadier General Ricardo Morales ordered me to go to Commissioner Greco Belgica to massage the case of PhilHealth on the overpriced testing kits.)

But according to Keith, he declined the order, and told Morales: "Ano na lang po ang tingin sa akin ni Commissioner Greco Belgica kapag pakikiusapan ko siya hinggil sa kaso?" (What would Commissioner Commissioner Greco Belgica think if I would ask him a favor regarding the case?)

Commenting on Keith's statement, Morales told Rappler in a text message that the incident the resigned PhilHealth officer recalled in the Senate happened before the investigation of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (headed by Belgica). Morales added: “In my view it was a simple misunderstanding.”

“When we received a subpoena, I ordered his (Keith's) liaison stopped,” Morales said.

The PhilHealth president and CEO was also in the same Senate hearing Tuesday with Keith.

In a Senate hearing in May, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon grilled Morales over the state insurer's supposed "overpriced" P8,150 testing package for COVID-19. Two weeks later, PhilHealth released a new COVID-19 testing package. It was scaled down to P3,409 from P8,150.

Aside from what he described as "widespread corruption," Keith said that the other reasons for his resignation were that "his salary has not been on time and it started when I investigated officers in PhilHealth" and the "unfairness in the promotion process. "

He also strongly opposed the mandatory payment of PhilHealth contribution by Overseas Filipino Workers.

Keith said he testified in the Senate hearing to expose the corruption in the state insurer. He added that what he found out in the PhilHealth corruption scheme was the "crime of the year."

"Naniniwala po ako na masusugpo na natin ang malapandemya na korapsyon sa PhilHealth," he said. (I believe we could end this pandemic-like corruption in PhilHealth.)

Morales has since denied the corruption allegations. (READ: PhilHealth defends reimbursement scheme, official in corruption allegations) – Rappler.com

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.

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