PhilHealth's Cagayan region officials tried to embezzle P9.7M: resigned anti-fraud officer

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 11 2020 02:05 PM | Updated as of Aug 11 2020 04:15 PM

MANILA - Several Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth) officials in the Cagayan region tried to embezzle some P9.705 million by transferring the funds to a bank in another region, the agency's former anti-fraud official said Tuesday.

PhilHealth Region II Accreditation and Quality Assurance Section Head Editha Conel and Social Insurance Officer Jerome Fullente have been disbursing PhilHealth funds to the Balanga Rural Bank located in Central Luzon, resigned anti-fraud official Thorrsson Keith said during a Senate investigation.

"I was wondering why they were saying that it was a mere error when it is clear that Region 2 has no authority and access to banks located in other regions," Keith told senators.

The irregularity was flagged after the Deutsche Bank "complained that they have not received" payments amounting to P9.705 million from the government-owned insurance firm, he said.

Conel and Fullente said "they have inadvertently credited to Balanga Rural Bank," Keith said.

But investigations showed that the disbursement of PhilHealth to Balanga Rural Bank was done "in multiple transactions" covering the "reimbursement of claims for 12 consecutive periods" from May 2 to 22, 2020.

"Both Conel and Fullente are permanent employees of PhilHealth for years... so there should be no room for this kind of mistake," Keith said.

"The multiple transactions connote that they were intending to defraud the government by embezzling," he said.

Keith alleged that the officials were taking orders from PhilHealth Senior Vice President for Legal Sector Rodolfo Del Rosario.

"It was supposed to be him who is responsible in investigating these... but he did nothing but sat down on the case to this date," Keith said.

"Del Rosario had plenty of travels going to Balanga... It is possible that it was transferred to Del Rosario's account," he said.

The senior vice president, who was also present in the Senate hearing, called the allegations as "character assassination."

"Naniniwala kayo dito? My God," Del Rosario asked senators while pointing at Keith.

(You believe this? My God.)

"Simula pa lang po... nahusgahan na ako dito (from the beginning, I've already been judged here)... When I defend my self in social media, that's the only way I can defend myself," he said.

Last week, Del Rosario said that the PhilHealth executive committee members would file libel charges against Keith, who earlier said that the insurance firm's officials pocketed some P15 billion in public funds.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III called Del Rosario's plan a "bad move," saying it was a clear "threat" against whistleblowers.