Whistleblower: Philhealth ‘mafia’ planned to use OFW payments to cover-up embezzled funds
A former anti-fraud legal officer testified in a Senate hearing on Aug.4 that a “mafia” in the Philippine agency tasked to implement the national health insurance program aimed to use the multimillion-peso contributions of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to cover-up some P15 billion in funds which were allegedly stolen due to massive corruption.
Thorsson Montes Keith said that a syndicate inside the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) – members of whom ostensibly went all the way up to the executive committee – pocketed around P15 billion through various illegal schemes. The racket consist of overpriced laptops worth P119 million, a bloated P734-million 2020 budget for its ICT sector and projects which cost P98 million.
The former Philhealth officer said he opposed the higher premium payments for OFWs – which under Republic Act No. 11223 or the Universal Health Care Law – was hiked to 3 percent of their monthly salary from 2.75 percent because of the anomalies he uncovered. The payment will eventually increase to as much as 5 percent by 2024.
The mandatory payment was later made voluntary, though Philhealth said this will only be on a temporary basis and the rise in the contributions will still be implemented.
Filipinos online decried the supposed planned mafia maneuver of misusing OFW payments to replenish the stolen funds.
Keith also accused Philhealth chief executive officer Ricardo Morales of asking him to iron out or “massage” the price for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test package – the price was initially set at P8,150 but it was reduced by half to P4,200 after a review of the price was sought by opposition senators.
Morales denied this, but he admitted that Philhealth has been wracked by graft and corruption and could have lost P10 billion in funds due to it.