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Ex-PhilHealth exec claims Morales ordered him to iron out 'overpriced' COVID-19 test kits issue

Resigned anti-fraud officer Thorrsson Montes Keith on Tuesday alleged that PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales tried to use him to iron out the supposed overpriced COVID-19 test kits of the state health insurer.

During a Senate hearing, Keith said he was ordered by Morales to talk to Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission Greco Belgica regarding the matter.

"'May pagkakaton na inutusan pa po ako ni Brig. Gen. Ricardo Morales na puntahan ko si Commissioner Greco Belgica para ang hilutin ang kaso ng PhilHealth sa overpriced testing kits," he said.

"Inayawan ko po ang utos at sinabi ko po kay Brig. Gen. Morales ''Ano na lang po ang tingin sa akin ni Commissioner Greco Belgica kapag pakikiusapan ko siya hinggil sa kaso. Namula po si Brig. Gen. Ricardo Morales," he added.

Morales was present at the hearing but has yet to be asked for his comment on Keith's accusation as of posting time.

Morales, a retired military general, had earlier dismissed Keith's accusation of widespread corruption in PhilHealth, noting that Keith started making noise after his application for promotion was rejected as he was unqualified for the position.

Morales has also dared Keith to back his accusations with evidence.

In May, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon urged the Department of Health to review PhilHealth's testing package.

PhilHealth explained that its COVID-19 test package was priced at P8,150 due to higher demand and limited supply of test kits during the initial onslaught of the pandemic.

But soon after, the price was halved to P4,200. 

Lost to fraud

During the hearing, Morales did not deny that there is fraud in PhilHealth, even saying that, based on a study, the corporation could have lost P10.2 billion due to fraudit in 2019. He even warned that this could double to P18 billion by next year if the issue on alleged irregularities in the corporation remains unaddressed.

Because of this problem, Morales said PhilHealth should be helped instead of mocked.

"Marami pong dapat ayusin sa PhilHealth. PhilHealth needs help. It has taken too many body blows. Tulungan ho natin ang PhilHealth. Kung maari ho, 'wag pagtulungan," he said. 

Among the issues that are expected to be taken up in the Senate hearing is PhilHealth’s alleged overpriced ICT equipment, manipulation of financial statements, and "highly irregular" implementation of advanced payments to health care institutions through the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism policy. 

Senator Panfilo Lacson, who was present in the hearing, said billions of pesos are being misused in PhilHealth in previous years based on Commission on Audit reports. —KBK, GMA News