Philhealth president asks Senate allow him to attend probe via teleconference

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MANILA – Saying his privacy was not respected, Philippine Health Insurance Inc. (PhilHealth) President and Chief Executive Officer Ricardo Morales asked the Senate to allow him to attend via online the next Senate inquiry into allegations of corruption in the state insurer on Tuesday.

“PhilHealth President and CEO Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Ricardo C. Morales submitted his medical certificate, as required, to request Senate to allow his online instead of his physical presence,” the PhilHealth statement issued on Sunday read.

Last Friday, Morales sent a letter to Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, saying he was advised by his doctor to take a leave of absence due to undergoing treatment for lymphoma.

In February, Morales was diagnosed with cancer and has been undergoing chemotherapy. However, he continues to hold office against his doctor’s advice to take a leave of absence.

“As President and Chief Executive, it is my duty to represent the Corporation while still physically capable. I regret that my privacy was not respected,” Morales said.

On Saturday, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Morales has valid reason not to attend Senate the hearing.

PhilHealth executive vice president Arnel de Jesus also informed Sotto that he would not be able attend the next Senate hearing since he is currently confined in a hospital since August 5 due to an “unforeseen medical emergency.”

PhilHealth anti-fraud officer Thorsson Montes Keith earlier claimed that some PHP15 billion of the agency’s funds had been misused for years by a “mafia” within the state insurer.

On Friday, Duterte directed the Department of Justice to create a task force to probe widespread corruption within PhilHealth.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the task force will conduct an audit of PhilHealth finances and lifestyle checks on its officials and employees.

If warranted, Roque said the task force may also recommend the preventive suspension on any official to ensure that the probe of the task force would be unhampered.

“There is no turning back as we expect the task force to submit its findings and recommendations to the Office of the President within 30 days after its constitution as directed by the Chief Executive,” he said in a statement on Sunday. -PNA

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