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PhilHealth chief wants to sit down with Duterte

Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) interim president Ma. Jude dela Serna on Tuesday said that she is seeking an audience with President Rodrigo R. Duterte so she could air her side on the Commission on Audit (COA) report regarding her questionable trips and hotel stays last year.

In a press briefing in Pasig City, dela Serna said she also wants to explain to Duterte PhilHealth's net loss of PHP9 billion.

She said that as an appointee of Duterte, she believes that she had followed Duterte's marching orders – fight illegal drugs, criminality, corruption and serve the poor – when she assumed the post in April 2017.

"I would like to believe ginagawa ko lahat ito in support for change (I would like to believe that I have done all in support for change)," she said, noting that she has instituted reforms in the agency.

She claimed that all the reforms she put in place have been received negatively by some quarters in PhilHealth.

"And if this is the thing that we have to go through because we are doing what is right, then I just have to face the issue. Kung lumulutang man ito dahil ako ay may nasasagasaan ay ganun yata sa government (If these things surfaced because some people have been affected, it's probably natural when you're in government)," she said.

She said that some reforms include rotation of PhilHealth executives and managers who were already in the same posts for more than 20 years and the implementation of Salary Standardization Law, among others.

"Through rotation, we are putting good people there so this will effect change," she said.

Meanwhile, in the same press briefing she reiterated that she all the answered the COA findings to justify her the travels and other expenses.

She said that all those travel and hotel accommodations were all supported by different issuances from Governance Commission for GOCCs.

Despite the findings, she thanked COA for coming out with the report which shows that it is doing its job to ensure that government money is spent wisely. The COA report questioned dela Serna's travel and accommodation expenses last year, amounting to over PHP600,000.

"COA is not saying you’re corrupt or you stole money. COA is just asking what is your legal basis for reimbursing these things," she said.

She expressed optimism that she will be cleared on the issues as supporting documents to justify the expenses were handed to COA.

On the alleged PHP9 billion net loss of PhilHealth, dela Serna said they are currently doing validation to check certain double entries of benefit expenses of other regions.

Leilani Junio / PNA