“Risa Hontiveros was not even able to address a number of PhilHealth controversies, such as the protested case rates, glaring hospital and clinic reimbursements, increase in out-of-pocket health expenditure and millions worth of bonuses and perks given to PhilHealth executives.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The group Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) had asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to investigate the use of funds of government agencies, particularly, for the campaign of senatorial candidate Risa Hontiveros.
Dr. Joseph Carabeo, HEAD secretary general and Kontra-Daya convenor, specified the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), which had been used in the past by some candidates to get electoral leverage.
“The use of PhilHealth’s resources, programs and materials by some candidates have been apparent since July 2015 and continues until this campaign period,” he said.
The group cited the Facebook posts of Akbayan Partylist member Ileana Ibay dated Jan. 16 and 30, and Feb. 6, 10 and 11, which showed her distributing PhilHealth cards and registering members. Ibay is running for councilor in the 2nd district of Pasay City.
Campaign materials of former Akbayan Partylist Representative and now senatorial candidate Hontiveros were posted in the background of the distribution.
“Curiously, an aspiring candidate performs a function normally done by a barangay/city office,” said Carabeo in a statement. He said it was an “obvious case of political leveraging by candidates who hold or are close to those who hold power.”
He said PhilHealth is a state-run social service institution, thus, any health and medical services that patients receive come from private funds of PhilHealth members and the government’s heavily-budgeted indigent sponsor program.
“However, the way Ibay, Hontiveros and Akbayan are using PhilHealth tends to deceive the beneficiaries and the public that they are the ones who provide health services,” said Carabeo.
Hontiveros was appointed PhilHealth director by President Aquino on June 30, 2015.
HEAD noted that in July 2015, Hontiveros became the poster girl of PhilHealth’s massive advertisement. This included huge posters plastered at the back of passenger buses plying major thoroughfares in Metro Manila.
Also in August 2015, the group said a 30-seconder TV commercial was repeatedly aired in major networks with Hontiveros appearing as PhilHealth head. The group estimates that each commercial could amount up to P400,000 ($8,610).
“There was confusion on how these were funded: Malacañang states that these were funded by PhilHealth, but Hontiveros’s camp asserts that these came from private funds from friends,” Carabeo said.
Carabeo also hit Hontiveros for portraying herself as a “health advocate using PhilHealth exposures.”
“Yet she was not even able to address a number of PhilHealth controversies such as the protested case rates, glaring hospital and clinic reimbursements, increase in out-of-pocket health expenditure and millions worth of bonuses and perks given to PhilHealth executives.”
“Hontiveros’s mounting of her pre-election ‘health advocacies’ campaign using PhilHealth funds lacks delicadeza. And this seems to have rubbed-off on her fellow Akbayan candidates,” Carabeo added.
A group of lawyers also challenged Hontiveros to reveal her private donors who she claimed are paying for her campaign commercials.
Carabeo said they call on the Filipino voters to choose “leaders who have integrity and accountability.”
“Voters must realize that candidates are abusing government programs such as PhilHealth, TESDA and the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), and we must never allow such politicians to gain power in the government,” Carabeo said.