PhilHealth exec dares whistleblowers: Come out, back accusations with evidence

Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) senior vice president for the legal sector Rodolfo del Rosario Jr on Thursday, August 6, hit back at whistleblowers who accused him and other executive members of corruption in the embattled agency.  

"Colonel Laborte, lumabas ka, huwag kang magtago. Ikaw 'yung nag google-google 'di ba? Lumabas ka. Sabihin mo kung ano ang ebidensya," Del Rosario said during a virtual press briefing on Thursday.

(Colonel Laborte, come out. Don't hide. You're the one who googled, right? Come out. Tell us your evidence.)

Etrobal Laborte recently resigned as executive assistant to the PhilHealth chief.

It was Laborte who drew Senator Panfilo Lacson's attention to PhilHealth's bloated procurement plan for 15 computer system network switches, which the senator presented at Tuesday's hearing.

Laborte was supposed to virtually attend a Senate hearing on Tuesday and was present when he and other witnesses were administered the oath to testify truthfully. When it was his turn to speak, however, he had disappeared from the web conference.

After the 10-hour hearing, Laborte sent word to Lacson, begging off from the probe. (READ: Key witness in probe of PhilHealth scandal backs out, says he's 'being followed')

The Commission on Audit (COA) earlier flagged the proposal because PhilHealth already had 24 brand new network switches, unused and still in their boxes. Laborte researched further and discovered that the market price for the items was only around P62,000 apiece, but the PhilHealth proposal priced them at P320,000 each.

During Thursday's briefing, Del Rosario also hit PhilHealth board member Alejandro Cabading, an accountant, who alleged that the proposed 2020 budget of PhilHealth's ICT (information and communications technology) sector was bloated by at least P734 million.

"So ang sinasabi ko, bakit po grabe ang objection sa automation, sa modernization ng ating information technology?" Del Rosario said. (What I'm saying is, why the strong objection to automation, to the modernization of our information technology?)

Del Rosario said that of all the board members at the state insurer, it was only Cabading who opposed the modernization of their ICT sector.

"Sagutin po niya 'yan. Bakit 'yung ibang board members, wala namang questions, 'di po ba?" he said. (He should answer that. Why is it that other board members don't have questions?)

According to Del Rosario, many people are criticizing and threatening them because of what the whistleblowers said at the Senate probe.

"Lahat ng mga negative comments. We are receiving death threats dahil po dito sa mga kasinungalingan, dahil dito sa pagbibigay ng maling datos," he said. (All the negative comments. We are receiving death threats because of the lies, because of the wrong data.)

Libel lawsuit

Del Rosario also threatened resigned anti-fraud legal officer Thorrson Montes Keith, saying that the executive committee will file a libel lawsuit against him for claiming they pocketed P15 billion worth of funds through fraudulent schemes. (READ: PhilHealth execs misspent, stole P15 billion, says resigned anti-fraud official)

“Ang dami po niya na mga kasinungalingan na pinagsasabi. Sabi niya, P15 billion binulsa ng mge execom members (He told so many lies. He said the execom members pocketed P15 billion). We can show receipts of the releases on IRM (Interim Reimbursement Mechanism) na hindi 'yan binulsa ng mga execom (that it wasn't pocketed by the execom),” Del Rosario said.

Del Rosario said Keith cannot invoke legal immunity because he went around media outlets to tell "those fabrications."

"So kahit na hindi ma-decide na ng corporation to file charges against him – PhilHealth kasi can sue or may be sued as an entity – ang members ng execom, in our personal capacity, will file cases, charges, or complaints against him," Del Rosario said. 

(Even if the corporation decides not to file charges against him – PhilHealth can sue or may be sued as an entity – the execom members in our personal capacity will file cases, charges, or complaints against him.)

Keith also said that PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales ordered him to "massage" the issue on supposedly overpriced testing kits.

Morales denied the allegations.

On Thursday, PhilHealth vice president for operations Augustus de Villa, who was among the senior officials accused of corruption at the state health insurer, tendered his "irrevocable resignation," but vowed to cooperate in congressional probes.

Senators leading the probe have said that Morales was either "blindsided" or complicit in the corruption mess. 

Amid the allegations, Senator Bong Go, the President's right-hand man, said Morales still enjoyed the trust of the President. – 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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