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Footdragging over corruption

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THERE ARE three principal characters in the ongoing public drama over corruption issues in the country’s health insurance corporation unfolding before the nation.

They are the seers, the suspects and the sick.

At the last Senate hearing, for instance, the head of Philhealth, an appointee of the President purposely to weed out corruption in the agency, indicated an uncanny power that is both strange and risible.

When pressed by senators on the flow of cash advance payments made to hospitals that ran into billions, Philhealth president Ricardo Morales replied they saw the COVID 19 crisis coming so they decided to prepare for it.

The only problem, and a big hole in his explanation, was that COVID 19 as a real threat was not yet existent at the time, not even Health Secretary Francisco Duque, Philhealth chairman, knew about it Sen. Lacson recalled. The Philhealth decision was made in January 2020 when the World Health Organization hadn’t yet declared a pandemic. It was only reluctantly declared as such in March, or two months before Morales and company saw it coming.

To use his own words, Morales said Philhealth then was already suffering the angst, in fact already in panic mode because of the imagined health disaster on the horizon. Imagine if Morales cared to share his fear with Duque or Duterte, our not-so-enviable status now as the land of the virus in Southeast Asia would have been nipped in the bud.

What a real blessing these modern-day prophets at Philhealth would have been to millions now reeling from the monstrous adversity of the existential crisis.

Funny, but even with this extraordinary gift, Morales seems to have been clueless all along about the humongous corruption activities committed right under his nose. On the other hand, a few of his colleagues in the rotting institution have challenged or doubted his exculpatory statements. Some of them have resigned in view of the unbearable smell or for fear of being stained had they stayed longer.

The suspects could also be the seers themselves, if you parse the credible testimonies and compare those with the inconsistent, even conflicting declarations by those now appearing in the Senate hearing. Memorandums issued before a board resolution authorizing them spoke volumes of unhindered, if not tolerated, irregularities at the top.

At the very least, according to one witness, there was conspiracy and cover-up. Everyone minded their own business when it came to irregularities but everybody covered each other’s back when found out, so goes the narrative. Compartmentalized crime covered by collective innocence.

Apparently, to escape the heat, a couple of officials have submitted medical certificates that showed they were not exactly in the pink of health, mind and body, to undergo the rigors of investigation.

But that didn’t mean they were off the hook, Senate President Tito Sotto cautioned. In fact, it’s a disadvantage, not a leverage, so he warned.

Obviously, the caveat worked. Morales, for one, has made himself available for the hearing, albeit virtually, a concession to his physical frailty, not a compassion for his confessed innocence or ignorance. As the hearing progresses, it seems he’s ready and willing to tell more interesting details.

As of this writing, he’s identified the members of the so-called mafia in the organization. Two hospitals from the home city of the President have been shown to have received preferential treatment over other hospitals in the country in terms of the cash advance payment system.

One is tempted to say eureka or bingo. But that may be premature.

Even with all the allegations flying thick and fast, and facts being unearthed and validated, Malacañang is footdragging over the issue when a simple solution could promptly end the unwanted agony and unbridled corruption at Philhealth.

Take it from Vice President Leni Robredo: suspend all officials allegedly involved the anomalies. If silence is complicity, add to the list those who, like Duque, for example remains quiet and cool over the Philhealth moral tremors.

Sotto finds his silence strange, in fact.

The President’s decision forming a task force to look into the web and thread of corruption at Philhealth exposes his brand of decisiveness, or lack of it, when it comes to erring or goofing off officials loyal to him. The worse thing is, it could be red-herring and ruse to blame the evil that men do at Philhealth to someone or something else.

With logic undeniable, the illogic could come into play.

Guess who will have the last laugh?

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