Garin denies PhilHealth seniors' fund diverted to Barangay Health Stations project

MANILA, Philippines – Former health secretary Janette Garin on Wednesday, July 4, denied allegations that Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) funds for senior citizens were diverted to the health department's Barangay Health Stations (BHS) project.

Garin made the statement at the Senate hearing on the BHS project, in response to the earlier claim made by PhilHealth officials.

"Hindi po totoo na may diversion ng fund kasi wala pong P10.6 billion na-release  (It’s not true that there was a diversion of funds because there was no P10.6 billion released),” Garin said.

The former health chief said the BHS project was sourced from the miscellaneous personnel benefits fund (MPBF) of the Department of Health (DOH).

DOH Undersecretary Roger Tong-an, who led the agency’s task force on the investigation into the BHS project, also said the project’s funds were sourced from the MPBF.

Some P8.1 billion was earmarked for the project.

In March 2018, then-PhilHealth interim president Celestina Ma Jude de la Serna filed a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman accusing Garin of supposedly waiving P10.6 billion originally meant for the payment of senior citizens' insurance premiums. (READ: Garin, Padilla face graft complaint over P10.6-B PhilHealth seniors' fund)

De la Serna alleged that the funds were waived in favor of the establishment of barangay health units.

The BHS project, implemented under Garin, seeks to establish 5,700 rural health units to ensure that villages have access to primary health care. Elementary schools were to be identified as sites for the health stations.

Health Secretary Franciso Duque III said on June 18 that the the DOH had uncovered possibly "billions of pesos worth of irregularities" in the project. (READ: DOH uncovers billion peso irregularity in Barangay Health Station project – Duque)

Duque also attended the Senate hearing, along with former health chief Paulyn Ubial and other health officials. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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