Fact checks on public officials

FACT CHECK: News report used to falsely pin down Hontiveros in Philhealth scandal

Rappler.com

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FACT CHECK: News report used to falsely pin down Hontiveros in Philhealth scandal
Fake news peddlers continue to link Senator Risa Hontiveros to PhilHealth’s illegal bonus anomalies in 2013 and 2014

Claim: Senator Risa Hontiveros is among the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) board members who were ordered to return unauthorized bonuses to officials and employees.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The Facebook video containing the false claim was posted on December 14 and had 31,000 views, 539 comments, 1,300 reactions, and 557 shares as of writing. 

The narrator in the video said, “Senator Risa Hontiveros nadagdagan ang problema matapos hamunin na ibalik na rin ang perang nalustay niya di umano sa PhilHealth na kung saan pinamigay niya ang P1.761 billion pesos bilang bonus ng mga officers at employees ng nasabing ahensiya.”

(Senator Risa Hontiveros faces more problems after being challenged to return the money she allegedly squandered from PhilHealth, in which she distributed P.1761 billion as bonuses to the agency’s officers and employees.)

The narrator also mentioned the Supreme Court (SC)’s order for Philhealth officials to return unauthorized benefits, citing Manila Standard’s 2016 article titled “Hontiveros dared to return P1.76b in PhilHealth bonuses” and Inquirer.net’s December 2022 article headlined “SC: P83-M PhilHealth execs’ benefits ‘illegal, irregular.’”

The facts: Claims linking Hontiveros to the Philhealth controversy have already been debunked, and the two articles referenced in the video were falsely used to imply Hontiveros’ involvement. 

No involvement: In its 2013 audit report, the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged P1.76 billion in benefits and allowances that Philhealth granted without legal basis. A total of P83 million in educational assistance allowance and birthday cash gifts released in 2014 were also flagged by auditors, with COA ordering Philhealth in 2018 to return the illegal perks. A September 2022 SC decision upheld this ruling.

Hontiveros could not have been involved in the controversy as she served as board member of the state insurer from November 2014 to October 2015, by which time the illegal allowances had already been released. As reported by Rappler, she took her oath of office in June 2015 and resigned the same year to prepare for the 2016 election.

Both the COA decision and the SC ruling did not name Hontiveros as among those responsible for granting the disallowed benefits. Philhealth and Hontiveros have also denied the senator’s supposed involvement, as reported by Vera Files in 2018.

False implication: The video misused the Manila Standard and Inquirer stories to implicate Hontiveros in the controversy. 

The Manila Standard article, published in 2016, reported on the National Association of Lawyers for Justice and Peace challenging Hontiveros – then a senatorial candidate – to lead efforts for the return of the illegal bonuses to prove she can be trusted by the public.

The Inquirer.net’s article, meanwhile, reported on the 2022 SC ruling and made no mention of Hontiveros’ supposed involvement.

Previously fact-checked: Rappler has debunked similar claims linking Hontiveros to the state insurer’s bonus anomalies: 

 – Ailla Dela Cruz/Rappler.com

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. You may also report dubious claims to #FactsFirstPH tipline by messaging Rappler on Facebook or Newsbreak via Twitter direct message. You may also report through our Viber fact check chatbot. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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