Fact checks on public officials

FALSE: Hontiveros ‘confirmed’ to have stolen P15 billion from PhilHealth

FALSE: Hontiveros ‘confirmed’ to have stolen P15 billion from PhilHealth
The P15-billion corruption issue in PhilHealth took place in 2019 – long after Hontiveros stepped down from her post in 2015
Claim:

Senator Risa Hontiveros is “confirmed” to have stolen P15 billion from the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

YouTube channel PH BREAKING NEWS uploaded a video on August 4, which was also embedded in a blog post by website opaua.com. Both the video and the blog post was titled “CONFIRMED: 15 BILLION PESOS ANG NINAKAW NILA RISA HONTIVEROS SA PHILHEALTH! WITNESS LUMANTAD NA! Full” (Confirmed! Risa Hontiveros stole P15 billion from PhilHealth! A witness was revealed!)

The video lasted for 16 minutes and 27 seconds. It contained a clip of a livestream by blogger “Banat By.”

Claim Check, Facebook’s monitoring tool, flagged the video and blog post for fact checkers to verify. The links were reported for containing false information at least 66 times. As of writing, the video had 215,597 views on YouTube.

Rating: FALSE
The facts:

The P15-billion corruption issue in PhilHealth, which former anti-fraud officer Thorrsson Montes Keith called “crime of the year,” took place in 2019 – long after Hontiveros stepped down as PhilHealth director.

Hontiveros took her oath of office as director of PhilHealth in June 2015 but left her post to run for senator in 2016.

The video uploaded by PH BREAKING NEWS also did not support the claim that Hontiveros stole P15 billion. Neither did it show a witness, as the title of the video and blog post said.

In the clip, Banat By was talking about PhilHealth’s bloated budget for information and communications technology projects. It did not say that Hontiveros had a hand in it. The post even acknowledged that Hontiveros was no longer part of PhilHealth when the issue happened. (READ: Corruption, controversies faced by PhilHealth)

Instead, Banat By talked about other past corruption issues that hounded PhilHealth and questioned why Hontiveros supposedly did not initiate a probe. “Alam na pala niyang may korapsyon noong 2013, eh bakit hindi man lang niya pinangunahan ang pagsauli?” (She knew there was corruption in 2013, but why didn’t she initiate a way to return the stolen funds?) he said. 

As of Tuesday, August 11, Senate hearings on the alleged rampant corruption in PhilHealth were still ongoing.

In an interview with DZBB on Monday, August 10, Hontiveros said: “The year before namin, may dinisallow na bonuses ang Commission on Audit (COA). In fact, kapag tiningnan niyo yung COA findings noon 2014 to 2015 kung saan CEO si Alex Padilla at ako ay miyembro ng board, walang disallowances noon.”

(The year before we were in office, COA disallowed bonuses. In fact, if you look at the COA findings in 2014 to 2015, when PhilHealth’s CEO was Alex Padilla and I was part of the board, there were no disallowances.)

Disallowances refer to COA’s disapproval in the audit of a transaction, such as disbursements of government agencies. In 2018, COA disallowed the P163.86 million in bonuses that PhilHealth granted their employees in 2009, 2010, and 2014.

In June 2019, Hontiveros also sought an investigation into the PhilHealth funds that supposedly went to a dialysis center that claimed benefits for “ghost patients.” (READ: Hontiveros seeks probe into PhilHealth payment of ‘ghost’ kidney treatments)

This is not the first time Hontiveros became the subject of a false claim related to PhilHealth.

In 2018, Rappler debunked a blog post that said COA ordered Hontiveros to return illegal PhilHealth bonuses. In June 2019, a false post also said that PhilHealth’s problems started during Hontiveros’ term. There was also a misleading claim in August 2019 that said the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption filed complaints against Hontiveros for stealing PhilHealth funds. – Pauline Macaraeg/Rappler.com

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