Morales' ex-aide to testify on alleged PhilHealth corruption in next Senate probe: source

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 10 2020 03:39 PM | Updated as of Aug 10 2020 03:41 PM

In photo are (L-R) PhilHealth Head Executive Assistant Etrobal Laborte; Chief Executive Officer IV Arnel De Jesus; PhilHealth President and Chief Executive Officer BGen. Ricardo Morales; MMDA Chairman Danilo Lim; PhilHealth Vice President for Corporate Affairs Group Dr. Shirley Domingo; and MMDA Executive Assistant Jeenee Ednalan after the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement held in Pasig City, January 8, 2020. Photo from PhilHealth's Facebook page

MANILA - The former top aide of Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth) President Ricardo Morales will give details about the alleged corruption schemes in the state-run insurance firm in the next Senate hearing, a source said Monday.

Former Marine Col. Etrobal Laborte, who initially backed out from testifying in the Senate last week, has decided to attend Tuesday's hearing (Aug. 11), the source said.

"The one or two new witnesses are ready to come out now after they heard the [first] hearing and yung klase ng mga palusot na ginagamit (the kind of excuses given)," the source said.

"Mabigat ang bibitawan nito. Mabigat ang mga ebidensya nito," the informant said, but declined to give more details about Laborte's expected expose.

(His allegations are heavy. The evidence he has also holds a lot of weight.)

Sen. Panfilo Lacson earlier said that Laborte "knows a lot" about the alleged corruption schemes in PhilHealth as he was the one who flagged "discrepancies" in the budget.

Laborte has been researching about alleged irregularities in PhilHealth and had provided documents that the Senate used in the first hearing, Lacson told reporters in an online press conference last week.

Laborte resigned as Morales' head executive assistant in July, citing his desire to enroll in post-graduate studies.

He initially logged on to the Senate's videoconferencing platform to join the chamber's investigation on alleged PhilHealth anomalies last week, but "backed out" after a few minutes, Lacson said.

"Last minute, nagpasabi siya na under threat siya, kaya hindi na natuloy 'yung aming meeting," he said.

(At the last minute, he sent word that he is under threat, so he had to cancel our meeting.)

REQUEST FOR SECURITY

Laborte has already requested the Senate for security, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in a virtual press briefing.

"We will provide them physical security, lalo na kung mabigat ang revelations nila at bilyon-bilyon sa pera ng tao ang pinag-uusapan," he said.

(We will provide them physical security especially if the revelations they will say hold a lot of weight, and if it involves billions of taxpayers' money.)

"We will also recommend them sa Witness Protection Program," Sotto added.

Aside from hearing the testimonies of new witnesses, the Senate Committee of the Whole is also expected to invite officials from the Department of Information and Communications Technology, Commission on Audit, and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission to corroborate several allegations made in the first hearing last week.

Morales and other PhilHealth officials have denied allegations of padding the prices of laptops, software and other tech equipment, saying the agency's modernization program was just being demonized.