"Who showed no mercy to the sick, the poor and the needy?"
This is one instance where technology served the people well.
In a pre-pandemic world, the excuses of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.’s top executives would have been commonplace. Filipinos are used to the “I am sick” pleas of public officials who, when confronted with alleged wrongdoing, invoke their health issues to skip hearings, or show up in wheelchairs or other contraptions.
This was the same stunt attempted by PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales and executive vice president Arnel de Jesus, who both sent word last week that they would not be able to attend Tuesday’s hearing on the alleged massive corruption in their agency because of their respective health issues.
On August 7, Morales’ doctor issued a supposed medical certificate that says he had been advised to take a leave of absence due to lymphoma. “In this case,” he said in an interview, “nature has intervened and we’ll have to take the doctor’s advice.”
Meanwhile, De Jesus’ excuse was particularly perplexing. Citing acute coronary syndrome, heart disease, and diabetes, among other illnesses, he claimed to have “an unforeseen medical emergency” several days before the scheduled hearing. It was all quite deliberate, in our view.
Fortunately, the pandemic has given rise to alternative means of communication, including remote meetings. As a result, both Morales and de Jesus were prevailed upon to virtually attend the probe and shed light on the revelations about the state health insurer that have shocked and outraged the public in recent days.
President Duterte had some threatening words for officials suspected of corrupt activities at the agency. “I will go after you and you can’t plead with me. I will show you no mercy, even if you are my supporter or if you helped me get elected. You’ll have it from me, believe me,” he said in a mix of English and Tagalog.
We can’t say the tough talk is anything new, and that equally explosive and incendiary issues have not died down over time. This time, however, aside from the Senate probe, there is the task force headed by the Justice Department to look into allegations of graft and corruption. As we sit out this pandemic, ideally in the comfort of home, we will also stay tuned to developments on this issue. We will also keep watch over how true the Palace would be to its word, and make sure that Mr. Duterte’s words are not mere lip service.
Those guilty of this monumental sin deserve no mercy indeed, because they were the ones who first showed no mercy to the sick, the poor and the needy.