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Duque, Garin clash over PhilHealth

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Former Health Secretary Janette Garin and the current Department of Health (DoH) chief, Francisco Duque III, crossed swords again yesterday after Duque dared Garin to make good her threat to file cases against former Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) officials who accused her of diverting P10.6 billion in health insurance funds.

Garin and Duque were also at odds over the Dengvaxia controversy that involved the purchase of P3.5 billion of anti-dengue vaccines from French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur months prior to the 2016 presidential elections.

The funds were earmarked for senior citizens’ insurance premiums but were allegedly used for the setting up of rural health units (RHU).

Garin said her lawyer is looking into the possibility of filing criminal and administrative cases against former PhilHealth officer-in-charge Celestina Jude de la Serna.

Duque said Garin has the right to file the cases but he said he disagrees with the claim of Garin and PhilHealth CEO and President Alexander Padilla that diversion of funds did not happen.

Garin and Padilla argued that no diversion occurred since the questioned money did not enter the coffers of PhilHealth.

Letter of waiver issued

“They issued a letter of waiver which means that in that letter the message was–PhilHealth doesn’t need the P10.6 billion. And, I disagree, because the senior citizens premium contributions are extremely important in sustaining the actuarial life of the PhilHealth funds,” Duque added.

He said the absence of the PhilHealth board’s approval and actuarial implication certification on the letters of the waiver signed by Garin and Padilla “speak for itself on the intention to divert the funds.”

“It is very clear on the letters where they affixed their signatures. They are the ones who signed and no one else,” he said.

He added it is a standard protocol that any amount that enters and goes out of PhilHealth should be accompanied by certifications which are important to determine the adequacy of the funds.

Duque said it was PhilHealth under de la Serna which filed a complaint last March 2018 against Garin and Padilla at the Ombudsman. The filing of the case was approved by the entire PhilHealth board.

“Di mag-file siya (Garin can file it). This is a democratic country. If anyone wants to file a complaint he can,” Duque said in an interview.

“At the end of the day, (the question is) will it prosper, right?” Duque, who also sits as chairman of PhilHealth, said. Charges traded At a press briefing in Iloilo last Tuesday, Garin said her lawyer is looking into the possibility of filing criminal and administrative cases against de la Serna and Reuben Basa, former PhilHealth senior vice president for health finance policy sector.

But in the PhilHealth plea before the Ombudsman, Garin and Padilla were accused of transferring funds intended as premium contributions of indigent senior citizens to the construction of RHU for its Tamang Serbisyo sa Kalusugan ng Pamilya (TSeKAP), equipment for barangay health stations, and other programs.

Garin branded as a “big lie” the alleged funds diversion which was intended “to cover up the real mess and mismanagement behind the billions of PhilHealth loss.”

“There was no release of P10.6 billion un-programmed fund because this can only be released if there is excess tax collection and it is not earmarked for PhilHealth but for DoH to attain millennium development goals (MDG) commitments and universal healthcare,” Garin said.

She added, however, unprogrammed fund was not released even to the DoH because the National Treasury did not issue any certification indicating excess tax collection.
Garin added previous DoH officials did not disregard senior citizens’ welfare.

She said in 2014, a total of P35.3 billion was released to PhilHealth which included premiums for the senior citizens insurance fund.

She added in 2015, the allocations increased to P37.06 billion; P43.84 billion in 2016, and P50.15 billion in 2017.

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