PhilHealth chief sacked for excessive travels; makes 30th fired by Duterte

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By Daniel Llanto | FilAm Star Correspondent

Less than a week after firing Customs Deputy Commissioner Noel Prudente, President Duterte also sacked Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) Chief Celestina Jude dela Serna for supposedly taking expensive and unnecessary trips abroad.

“So, to date, I have fired about 30,” Duterte boasted to the Filipino community in Seoul in the course of his state visit to South Korea.

Dela Serna was dismissed as PhilHealth head almost a month after Duterte ordered the investigation for her travels amounting to PHP 627,293.04 in just one year amid the agency’s massive net income loss amounting to PHP 8.92 billion based on its 2017 unaudited financial statement posted online.

Duterte appointed PhilHealth board member Dr. Roy Ferrer to take over the position vacated by Dela Serna. Ferrer, in a text message, confirmed his new post and said that he will do his best to effectively carry out the mandate of PhilHealth.

“I will do my best to be an effective public servant and to carry out the mandate of PHIC and (of) PRRD (that has been) given (to) me,” he said. Based on documents, Duterte approved the nomination of Ferrer to be PhilHealth’s acting president last June 1.

Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito welcomed President Duterte’s decision to designate a new PhilHealth head. But Ejercito, Senate health and demography committee chair, expressed hope that the President would designate a permanent PhilHealth chief, one that has financial and actuarial expertise.

“I’ve been requesting that the President appoint a financial expert with actuarial knowledge as PhilHealth means management of funds. With PhilHealth’s current situation, we really need a financial wiz to fix all its troubles,” Ejercito said in a text message. “Not to undermine the capabilities of doctors but we really need a financial expert at this point,” Ejercito added.

Last month, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque reported that Duterte ordered a probe on PhilHealth to fully implement a universal healthcare in the country. “If PhilHealth will not clean their ranks, the universal healthcare will not be realized,” he said then.

Only last week, Duterte fired newly appointed Customs Deputy Commissioner Prudente for his supposed excessive travels to Singapore and Europe.

For the past five months, Duterte has been in a firing spree of government officials for alleged corruption and other abuses in office. They include those officials who have excessive travels.

“To date, I have fired almost everyone I know and sadly, these were the people who convinced me to run (for president). I was in Davao then and they went there and pestered me,” Duterte said.

Duterte said he was hurt that many of these sacked officials convinced him to run in the last presidential elections. He had earlier explained that he has nothing against foreign trips especially if it would benefit the country. However, he has a different opinion on lavish travels that has little or no effect for the country at all. He also said that excessive and unnecessary foreign trips are a waste of taxpayers’ money and it slows down the function of government.

Last January, Duterte fired for frequent foreign trips Maritime Industry Authority Administrator Marcial Amaro III. He said Amaro’s 24 foreign trips were excessive.

Duterte also fired all high officials of the Presidential Commission on Urban Poor (PCUP) for failing to meet as a collegial body and for making unnecessary junkets, and also former Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairperson Patricia Licuanan.

Also, on January, the Office of the Executive Secretary issued a memorandum order prohibiting all government officials under the executive branch to make foreign trips, except when they travel at their own expense, and if the country will greatly benefit from the said foreign trips.

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