Former Health secretary asked to focus on where P10.6B fund for senior citizens went

FORMER Health Secretary Janette Garin should focus on answering allegations that she diverted the P10.6 billion fund for health insurance premiums of senior citizens in the country instead of resorting to diversionary tactics, Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito said on Friday.

Ejercito, who heads the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, said the alleged diversion of funds for the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) to the Department of Health (DOH) was done during Garin’s time as head of the department.

The senator was reacting to the statement by Garin to media in a forum on Thursday, saying that Ejercito was misinformed about the PhilHealth issue.

Garin also claimed that the senator was being given wrong information about her role in PhilHealth.

“With all due respect to Senator JV Ejercito, take a look at your surroundings and the people at your office because it seems like you are being misinformed,” added the former health secretary.

Ejercito countered that no less than the current PhilHealth officials testified during the hearing of the Joint Congressional Oversight on National Health Insurance Program, which he convened to investigate the alleged diversion, that the P4.7-billion loss by the state-run insurance agency could be traced to the fund request by Garin and former Philhealth chief Alexander Padilla.

Garin and Padilla waived an appropriation that was earmarked in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2016 for senior citizens’ health premiums. Since these funds were diverted, Philhealth was forced to use its reserve funds.

Ejercito said the committee could not just brush aside the claims, especially if there were paper trails indicating that there was an irregularity in the action of former officials.

“Instead of engaging in diversionary tactics, I suggest that the good former Secretary should focus on answering this serious allegation which, by the way, was also the basis of a case against her and former Philhealth officials before the Ombudsman which was filed as early as March 2018,” Ejercito added.

The committee will be conducted another hearing on the Philhealth issue and will be inviting Garin, Padilla and former Budget secretary Florencio Abad. JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA


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