De la Serna’s expenses defended, Duterte wants an investigation

The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) on Thursday defended its Officer-in-Charge (OIC) president and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) saying the expenditures of Dr. Celestina Ma. Jude de la Serna were all “above board.”

At the same time, President Duterte has ordered a probe into the travel expenses and allowances given to de la Serna. The controversy stems from the questions involving P627,000 of travel and accommodation expenses in various hotels in the National Capital Region and her travels from Manila to Tagbilaran and vice versa.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told Palace scribes: “The President ordered the investigation because the President’s priority is to provide universal health care. And if he is unable to clean the ranks of PhilHealth, he would not be able to grant universal health care.”

Roque said the president is putting premium on the effort to clean the ranks of PhilHealth.

On the other hand, the leadership of the PhilHealth insists the expenses incurred by de la Serna are above board.

“They are aboveboard because we believe we have legal bases and we shall respond to the audit observation, “Dr. Israel Francis Pargas, PhilHealth vice president for Corporate Affairs Group and spokesperson said in an interview.

Pargas said that the questioned travel expenses were allowed by PhilHealth as well as the Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG). GOCCs refers to government-owned and -controlled corporations.

“These travel expenses are allowed by the Corporation through a board resolution and the letter response from the GCG on our query,” said Pargas.

He said dela Serna’s trips were supported by documents such as travel authority and certifications signed by the appropriate offices.

He further clarified that reports citing that dela Serna stays in a hotel during her trips were wrong, saying that the PhilHealth head stays in an apartment whenever she is in Manila.

He said dela Serna’s permanent residence is in Bohol prior to her appointment as OIC in April 10, 2017.

As of now, dela Serna is preparing to submit to COA all the answers as soon as possible, Pargas said.

Earlier, the news reports quoted the Commission on Audit (COA) as having cited that dela Serna’s expenditures reached almost a million pesos in 2017, asking the PhilHealth’s interim head to explain her expenditures for her accommodations, flights to and from Tagbilaran, and terminal fees.

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