Quarantine Journals: Frayed Nerves (Part 2)

This is part two of a two-part opinion piece on current events in the Philippines. While based on news taken from trusted sources, I make the disclaimer that this blog is NOT a news channel. Content on this blog (this article included) should be taken with a grain of salt. I do not intend to be taken as – and nor should anyone take me for – credible source. Read part one here.

But because this is the Philippines, we had to come from hearing Duterte’s last public address to learning that a syndicate within PhilHealth (Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, the Philippines’ fumbling answer to universal healthcare) has apparently run away with more or less PHP 15 Billion in public funds. The syndicate is allegedly composed of the corporation’s top executives, and may have been defrauding the corporation for some time now.

Reading through news reports on the subject reveals some very damning incidents. For one, the whistleblower, a former antifraud legal officer for PhilHealth who quit his post back in July, claims that PhilHealth CEO Ricardo Morales directed him to talk with the commissioner to the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission to “massage” investigations on seemingly potentially overpriced COVID-19 testing kits.

Now as the public ire converges on the corporation, people are digging up more and more dirt. My favorite being the revelation that the corporation’s proposed budget cited the allocation of “PHP 21 million for Adobe Master Collection, PHP 42 million for identity management software, PHP 21 million for office productivity software, and PHP 25 million for application server, virtualization licenses and support maintenance.” Forget about the rest of the items, but 21 million for the Adobe Master Collection? Are our PhilHealth executives spending their work days editing multichannel 4K videos? Are they making feature films? Who uses that and for what? The people need answers!

True to form, the officials involved in the scandal are denying allegations – Morales at one point even claiming that the scandal was only part of an “annual bash” towards PhilHealth. But I guess if your corporation is the type that gets swept up in massive scandals maybe an annual bash is called for. Hell, maybe it should be a government-mandated holiday, and put that “shame campaign” idea to some good use.

But what’s really painful about this PhilHealth fiasco is that the lost PHP 15 billion would have likely come directly from the people’s pocket. It’s not some immaterial cash that the government loaned from the ADB or the IMF. One reason why a lot of people continue to see Marcos in a good light despite the exorbitant loaning and lost pubic funds is that as a regular citizen it’s really difficult to feel cheated out of money that never went through you anyway. Even the money that Duterte’s administration has been loaning of late for their coronavirus response easily gets pushed aside in the public consciousness despite the dizzying amounts because no one has any concrete association towards it. Even when we end up paying for it for generations to come.

But that’s not true with the money PhilHealth may have lost. If you want to see just how much they have stolen from you, you need only pick up your pay slip and see the exact amount printed there. We’ve been giving away chunks of our hard-earned money – and for this? I hope they got good use out of the Adobe Master Collection.

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