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Whistleblowers deny 'Mindanao group' is mafia within PhilHealth

The Senate Committee of the Whole on Tuesday got mixed answers on who really are the members of the so-called mafia that perpetuates corruption within the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation or PhilHealth.

Senator Risa Hontiveros asked incumbent and former PhilHealth officials if the "Mindanao group" previously identified by former PhilHealth chief Roy Ferrer in 2019 is indeed a syndicate.

The senator mentioned the names of PhilHealth executives Johann Paolo Perez, Khaliquzzman Macabato, William Chavez, Dennis Adre, Masiding Alonto, Atty. Valerie Hollero, Miriam Grace Pamonag and a certain Atty. Galicto to validate if the resource persons know them.

Former anti-fraud officer Thorrsson Montes Keith said the persons mentioned "have no capacity to steal."

"Wala po silang hinahawakan na office dito sa central office to steal money, sa aking personal knowledge," he said.

He added that they were not among the individuals he investigated last year.

Incumbent Board member Alejandro Cabading also believes that the so-called members of the Mindanao group were actually the "good guys."

"In my definition they are the hero, modern-day heroes... and these are the guys to actually bring about the operation of PhilHealth," he said.

"Lahat po ng mga information binibigay sa akin, galing po sa kanila. These are the good guys around," he added.

Cabading said he thinks Ferrer was lying when the latter tagged the aforementioned executives as mafia last year.

Cabading, during last week's hearing, named four incumbent executives as part of the mafia within PhilHealth.

On the other hand, PhilHealth Senior Vice President Rodolfo Del Rosario maintained that the so-called Mindanao group is involved in alleged irregularities.

"The people that were named by Dr. Ferrer sila po 'yun, noong nag-imbentaryo po kami ng cases, there were cases pending against them, there were cases that remained unacted for the longest time," he said.

"So I also conducted inventory of cases sa legal at nakita ko nga doon there were around 3,000 cases that were archived... The PhilHealth Board of Directors decided on the pending investigations. That's the reason why several administrative charges were filed," he added.

PhilHealth Corporate Secretary Atty. Jonathan  Mangaoang, meanwhile, said he would rather "give the presumption of regularity" on the performances of all officers in the agency.

Del Rosario and Mangaoang were among the alleged mafia members recently named by Cabading.

PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales, for his part, said Alonto who is PhilHealth’s Vice President for Mindanao, and Macabato who serves as regional vice president at the PhilHealth office in the Bangsamoro Region, were influential because he "could not move them."

Hontiveros suggested that the Mindanao group be invited for the next hearing but Senate President Vicente Sotto III stressed that their testimonies as whistleblowers in the Senate inquiry last year could instead be retrieved from the records.

Nonetheless, Sotto said Hontiveros' suggestion will be considered. -- BAP, GMA News