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A fox in the henhouse

Deemed ‘shameless’ and ‘immoral.’ it was later revealed that the bonuses were personally authorized by Aquino under Presidential Executive Order 24.

Dean Dela Paz

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If there is one idiomatic expression that encompasses all the sordid details of the continuing scam that we are seeing unfold in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), the children’s allegory of having a fox guard the chickens in the henhouse is perhaps the most apt.

For just about anyone who’s been following the incredible saga of how crooks have been squandering our money at PhilHealth, the implications of the nursery expression both to PhilHealth’s past and its immediate future are evident. There is little doubt that there scavenged the most ravenous predators, freely feeding among the health insurer’s ranks. And even as we attempt to clean out every crook from every cranny, there will always be those appointed to fiduciary institutions who will compromise it and there fleece to their heart’s delight either through unknowing dereliction or deliberate corruption.

It is in the DNA of political appointees, it seems. It is also part of the political reward system where we continue to populate the coop with our cabal.

It is unfortunate that its applicability is not limited to PhilHealth. It now appears that there have been scavenging packs in the most sensitive institutions where they feed as they please, unchecked and uncontrollable.

Recall two of the most popular presidential incumbencies where whoever was the president at the time had leveraged his popularity to appoint to critical fiduciary positions men who would eventually plunder the institution they were managing. By so doing, they enriched themselves and perhaps a clown-car of friends at the expense of the public.

Allow us to cite scandalous precedents in other institutions at different times and under different presidencies. These examples are not too far back in the past that the victimized might have forgotten. More so because the betrayal of fiduciary responsibilities had led to a drastic depletion in funds that require lifetimes to replenish.

Two decades ago, 14 senior executives of the Social Security System (SSS) including the Secretary of Labor and Employment at the time were charged with graft for channeling SSS funds to purchase equity in a financial institution at a premium to market of over P1.1 billion.

Pensioners’ interests were not in the equation. The rechanneling was meant to augment funding needed to purchase a large bank by a markedly smaller one. Shortly thereafter, it was also discovered that the SSS had invested in a controversial gaming and leisure private corporation. Subsequent testimony in an infamous trial that implicated the highest office in the land revealed that the instructions had come from the Palace.

Two administrations later, in 2012, this time under Benigno Aquino III, the SSS had again figured in a scandalous controversy where its highest officers awarded themselves big fat million-peso bonuses at a time when SSS pensioners were being arm-twisted to increase their contributions to stave off the early depletion of the pension’s funds. Deemed “shameless” and “immoral.” it was later revealed that the bonuses were personally authorized by Aquino under Presidential Executive Order 24.

One opposition lawmaker had identified 19 other state corporations with similar scandalous bonuses. Among them were three of the largest state-run financial institutions, including PhilHealth.

That’s not just one fox in the henhouse. Those are three packs of wolves.

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