PhilHealth’s De la Serna welcomes probe, but begs Duterte to hear her out

MANILA, Philippines – Confident her travel expenses were all “above board,” Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) interim president Celestina Ma Jude de la Serna on Tuesday, May 8, said would support Malacañang’s investigation into the issue.

"I welcome very much, both personally and professionally, that he (President Rodrigo Duterte) looks into the case that we've seen in PhilHealth because it is something that I guess everybody should look into,” De la Serna said in a press conference.

Asked if she had already set a meeting with President Duterte, De la Serna repeated her appeal to have the President listen to her side of the story first.

“I am begging the President to give me time so he can hear [me],” she said.

Rappler first reported that De la Serna incurred at least P627,000 worth of trips to and from Bohol, as well as hotel stays, in just a year in office. (READ: PhilHealth OIC spends P627k for travels amid P9-B net loss in 2017)

Resident auditors at PhilHealth have also asked De la Serna to explain her receipt of allowances and per diem, which would amount to almost P1 million, including the travel expenses.

The controversy comes amid PhilHealth's net loss amounting to P8.92 billion, according to its 2017 unaudited financial statement posted online. According to PhilHealth chief finance executive Gregorio Rulloda, this has been adjusted to about P4 billion, as a Commission on Audit (COA) memorandum noted double entries recorded.

The adjustment, based on COA Audit Observation Memorandum Number 18-005 (17) National Capital Region covers only operations in NCR and are not yet final. 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque on Monday, May 7, said President Duterte ordered an investigation into the excessive travels of De la Serna, as it was his priority to clean the ranks of PhilHealth.

For her part, De la Serna said she supported the President’s intentions to clean the ranks of PhilHealth.

“With the direction of the universal healthcare law, they will be putting more money into PhilHealth, so kailangan talaga siya linisin muna bago siya lagayan ulit (ng pera) kasi otherwise baka butas-butas na siya. Walang mangyayari doon sa pera, mapapariwara,” she said.

(With the direction of the universal healthcare law, they will be putting more money into PhilHealth, so it really needs to be cleansed before more money is put into it. Otherwise, it might have too many leaks. Nothing will happen to the money, it will be lost.)

De la Serna also said that she was only following the orders of the President and is now waiting to be given the chance to meet with him on the matter.

“We are ready anytime that the President would like to hear us,” she said. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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