Editorial: Elementary cases

·2 min read

“KUNG si General Morales po ay hindi aalisin, hindi po maalis ang problema, dahil mula ulo hanggang paa ang corruption sa PhilHealth (If General Morales will not be fired, the problem of corruption will not stop because it runs from head to foot).”

This was Presidential Anti-Corruption Commissioner Greco Belgica’s disclosure in a Senate hearing in August as he called for the ouster of then Philippine Health Insurance Corp. Chief Ricardo Morales.

The government health insurer’s top man has since then bowed out in the heat of corruption allegations, but for reasons of unstable health. While public response was building up, the PhilHealth issue waned as other headlines stole the limelight—from dolomite to the coup at the House of Representatives.

Which is why the National Bureau of Investigation - Central Visayas’ (NBI-CV) recent move directed at PhilHealth is a welcome sliver of light. It’s a strike at the foot of the monster, filing complaints against eight officials of PhilHealth’s regional office and four employees of a hospital in Cebu City.

The case has something to do with their involvement in anomalous claims involving Covid-19 cases. The charges include violations of Republic Act 3019 or Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards of Public Officials, and malversation of public funds. Administrative cases were also filed against those involved, including violation of the Revised Administrative Code for Dishonesty, Neglect of Duty and Misconduct, and incompetence in the performance and inefficiency of official duties and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

Indeed, quite a mouthful for deeds driven by intense greed. As this is done in the midst of the pandemic, this is practically no different from stealing from a sick man.

NBI-CV Director Rennan Augustus Oliva said some simple cases of respiratory infections were referred to as Covid-19. The officials neglected the swab results, supposedly the crucial document to determine appropriate categorization of cases.

The officials, Oliva said, approved the cases as Covid-19 despite the absence of supporting swab test results documents.

“There is a likelihood that there are more cases being claimed as Covid when in fact, it is not,” said Oliva.

NBI offices in Bohol and Dumaguete, he said, are also set to file charges against other officials in the coming days.

We welcome the NBI’s enterprise in investigating these cases. The billions of funds that disappeared in thin air weren’t an overnight job or carried out within the Covid-19 timeline. We can only imagine the breadth of larceny that has existed long enough to reach this scale. The Covid-19-related cases are but elementary cases, but it’s a good start.

Before imagining any reform, the public must intensify its call for more accountability.

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