Fact checks on public officials

FACT CHECK: Hontiveros not part of P15-B PhilHealth corruption scandal


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FACT CHECK: Hontiveros not part of P15-B PhilHealth corruption scandal
Rappler and other fact-checking bodies have repeatedly debunked false claims alleging the senator’s involvement in the 2019 corruption scandal

Claim: Senator Risa Hontiveros stole P15 billion from the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to fund her senatorial campaign.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: A YouTube video posted on March 3 cites former broadcaster and SMNI consultant Jay Sonza as a source for the claim. As of writing, it has 5,600 views and 266 likes.

The video was posted amid the ongoing Senate inquiry headed by Hontiveros on the alleged abuses committed by the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) led by Davao-based preacher Apollo Quiboloy.

The bottom line: Hontiveros was not part of the P15-billion corruption scandal as it took place in 2019, long after Hontiveros stepped down from her post as a Philhealth board member.

Hontiveros served as a board member of the state insurer from November 2014 to October 15. She took her oath of office in June 2015 and resigned the same year for her 2016 senatorial bid. It was in 2020 when former PhilHealth anti-fraud officer Thorrsson Montes Keith revealed that Philhealth executives pocketed and misspent P15 billion through fraudulent schemes in 2019. (READ: Corruption, controversies faced by PhilHealth)

Not part of PhilHealth ‘mafia’: In a 2020 interview on Super Radyo DZBB, Hontiveros herself denied involvement in the controversy amid rumors that she was part of the “mafia” running the illegal activities within Philhealth.

The senator was also not among the Philhealth executives named by Keith as the ringleaders of a “syndicate” within the state insurer.

In a statement in 2020, PhilHealth denied Keith’s claims and said that the funds in question were disbursed to 711 healthcare facilities for COVID-19 response and were not pocketed by its officials.

Old claim: Rappler and VERA Files have already debunked claims that Hontiveros stole P15 billion from PhilHealth. Since 2018, the senator has also been repeatedly falsely linked to other controversies, such as her supposed involvement in PhilHealth’s illegal bonus anomalies in 2013 and 2014.

Quiboloy issue: The false claim surfaced amid the ongoing Senate probe into human trafficking and abuses supposedly committed by Quiboloy and KOJC. Hontiveros, head of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality, has been leading the hearings since January.

On March 5, the Senate panel cited Quiboloy in contempt after the preacher continued to snub the hearings despite a subpoena. Hontiveros also asked Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri to order Quiboloy’s arrest so he could testify before the committee.

Dubious source: The cited source of the claim, Sonza, has already been fact-checked for spreading dubious claims about Martial Law, COVID-19 coverage, and Rappler.

Rappler has published multiple fact-checks debunking false claims about Hontiveros:

– Kyle Marcelino/Rappler.com

Kyle Marcelino is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.
Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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