Senator Richard Gordon said the reluctance of new Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) chief Dante Gierran to pay the state insurer’s debt to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) was “reckless” and could affect the country’s efforts against COVID-19.
Gordon, who concurrently heads the PRC, said he was puzzled about Gierran’s hesitation to release the payment of PhilHealth’s debt despite pronouncements and commitments coming from Palace officials.
“Ang nadinig kong sinasabi niya — hearsay ito ha — ‘Ano, ‘pag umalis ang Presidente, bago na administrasyon, ako iimbestigahin? Dapat maingat na maingat ako, sobrang ingat’ (What I heard from is that — this is just hearsay — ‘If the President steps down, and there will be a new administration, I will be the one investigated for this. So I should be careful, extremely careful),” Gordon said in an online interview with Senate reporters on Tuesday.
“Sobrang ingat para sa kanya, sobra namang reckless para sa mga tao na hindi mate-test (He was being too careful, but becoming too reckless for people who cannot be tested),” he added.
The PRC earlier stopped conducting COVID-19 tests for the government due to the Philhealth’s outstanding debts, which has ballooned to over P1 billion.
President Duterte had vowed to settle the unpaid balance of PhilHealth to the Red Cross.
According to Gordon, he also spoke with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea who promised that the debt will be paid soon. He also pointed out that Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra recommended that PhilHealth pay its debt to PRC.
The PRC chairman surmised that the newly-appointed PhilHealth president was being careful about who to trust in the agency, as it recently figured in a controversy for its questionable releases to non-COVID-19 health facilities and alleged procurement irregularities.
“Like a new guy on the bloc surrounded by all kinds of snakes, jackals and hyenas. Natatakot siya, natatakot siyang gumalaw (He was afraid to take immediate actions). That is one explanation,” he believed.
“I am totally perplexed why he is acting this way. I don’t want to lose our friendship,” Gordon said of Gierran.
“I think it’s failure of judgement, he’s obstinate. [He has an] Unexplainable attitude of being recalcitrant. Kaya nga di ako makakibo (That was why I cannot comment at first),” he said.
Gordon said the lack of testing by the PRC paved the way for other private laboratories to conduct their own testing. He said he has received complaints that some have been charging as high as P20,000 for each COVID-19 test.
Still, he maintained that the PhilHealth should pay in full its debt to the PRC.
“Wala naman tayong hinihingi na illegal (We are not asking from them anything illegal). There was a contract. Before the contract, I asked the opinion of the COA (Commission on Audit),” Gordon said, reiterating that the agreement between the PRC and the PhilHealth was above board.