Wednesday, June 29, 2016


Fraud in connection with PhilHealth payments to health care providers first came to light in May, 2015.   This resulted in a riveting Senate investigation in the latter part of 2015 that brought to the limelight even more details about this serious problem, particularly among eye centers and ophthalmologists.  PhilHealth has since taken various concrete measures to curb fraud and to save the funds so that these can be used to improve the benefits of members who are estimated to be around 90-92% of the population.
PhilHealth benefit payments have almost doubled in less than three years.  In 2015, PhilHealth paid 97B in benefits from 55.5B in 2013.   The shift from fee for service to Case Rates also streamlined the claims payment and reduced turnaround time by 50%.    However, much has still to be done to reduce out of pocket payments for members.  In order to achieve this, PhilHealth must improve collection efficiency, restructure and prioritize its benefit packages so that it can pay more for the disease that burden the country most, and curb fraud.
In the last 8 months since October, 2015,  PhilHealth’s Committee on Appealed Administrative Cases (CAAC) decided 111 cases and as of June 20, 2016, has a zero backlog.   Several administrative and criminal cases have recently been filed against health care providers, not just among eye centers and eye doctors, but against all other health care providers who have abused the privilege of PhilHealth accreditation.  Public education to inform members about their rights as patients and about unethical and illegal practices such as solicitation with inducements and kickbacks, is also being undertaken.   In a recent meeting, the PhilHealth Board also approved the filing of administrative cases at the Professional Regulations Commission and the publication of cases in media.   The benefit packages are being studied so that safety parameters and controls can be put in place to promote patient safety and fraud mitigation.   An Ad hoc committee to investigate non-compliance of Board directives by PhilHealth staff has also been formed. These stringent measures are expected to significantly curtail fraud and abuse.
In addition to the above, a proactive approach to mitigating fraud is to strengthen the Risk Management Committee to identify potential areas of risk and to put forward action steps.  The Corporation’s enterprise architecture and dash board have likewise made monitoring of benefits availed of and the movement of funds much easier to undertake.  It has also beefed up its Information Security program. 
All the above are envisioned to plug leakages and will allow PhilHealth to increase the support value for members in terms of better benefits and lower out of pocket payments. In line with this, the Benefits Committee is looking at introducing a Guaranteed Health Package for important disease conditions that cause 80% of the country’s disease burden.  This means that for these conditions, the poor will be guaranteed truly no balanced billing while those who can afford some co-payment will be guaranteed a fixed and reasonable co-payment.  The other diseases that make up the 20% of the disease burden will be subject to a clear and transparent Nomination Process.  It is hoped that through all these measures PhilHealth will truly be able to deliver on its mandate of financial risk protection. (END)
 Reference:  Dr. Israel Francis A. Pargas
                   OIC-Vice President, Corporate Affairs Group

Singaporean website owner jailed for anti-Pinoy, anti-foreigner content

SINGAPORE - A Singaporean man behind a defunct website that published made-up articles stirring hatred against Filipinos and other foreigners in the city-state was jailed for eight months Tuesday for sedition.
State prosecutors had pushed for a strong deterrent sentence on Yang Kaiheng, owner of The Real Singapore (TRS) website, saying the articles on which the charges were based were "designed to provoke hatred against foreigners in Singapore".
Yang, 27, had earlier claimed trial but later pleaded guilty to six charges of sowing discord between locals and foreigners in a series of articles, three of which state prosecutors said contained "blatant falsehoods designed to insert prominent xenophobic" references.
One article falsely said that a Filipino family instigated a fracas at a Hindu festival in 2015. Another fabricated article alleged that a Chinese woman made her grandson urinate into a bottle inside a metro train.
The articles were mostly designed to inflame hatred against Filipino, mainland Chinese and Indian nationals working in labor-starved Singapore, the prosecutors said.
Prosecutors described Yang as a "calculating opportunist, who realized that by generating a groundswell of resentment towards foreigners, he could attract readers to the TRS website and thereby generate vast sums of advertising revenue".
Yang's Australian wife, Ai Takagi, who wrote or edited the articles, was sentenced in March to 10 months in jail also for sedition.
The popular website, which earned the duo hundreds of thousands in advertising revenue, was shut down after Takagi and Yang were arrested while visiting the island last year. Both were based in Australia.
Takagi's sentence is the stiffest so far ever imposed for sedition in the strict city-state, which clamps down hard on any activity seen as promoting racial and class hatred.
State prosecutors described Yang as the "proprietor" and "distributor" of TRS and said a tough sentence on him "must reflect the fact that this is the most serious case of sedition to date in Singapore".
District court Judge Chay Yuen Fatt noted that Yang had pleaded guilty on Friday, the day results showed that Britain had voted to bolt out of the European Union.
"To put it bluntly, nationalism can degenerate very rapidly into xenophobia, racism, intolerance and violence," the judge said.
"Brexit is an example and a reminder of how strong, uncertain and unpredictable these emotions can be and the ramifications that these feelings can and have caused."
Sedition laws in Singapore make it an offense to promote hostility between different races or classes in the multiracial society, which is mainly ethnic Chinese with large Malay and Indian minorities.
Critics, however, say sedition laws, dating back to British colonial rule, can be used to restrict free speech.
About 40 per cent of the city-state's 5.5 million people are foreigners, many of them from China, India and the Philippines. — Agence France-Presse

7 Pinoy students among thousands affected by West Virginia flooding

Seven Filipino students from De La Salle University - College of St. Benilde were among the thousands affected by the flooding in West Virginia that killed 24 people over the weekend.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday said the seven students were part of a group of 55 Filipino students undergoing on-the-job training at Greenbriar Resort.
According to the DFA, the Embassy's Consular Section confirmed that they are in "good condition" and are currently housed "in safer surroundings within the resort."
"The Embassy has also gotten in touch with the local chapter of the De La Salle University Alumni Association, who is spearheading a drive to gather supplies for the students," DFA spokesperson Charles Jose said.
Days of heavy rain have caused massive flooding in the state, where high waters have washed away cars, trapped hundreds and cut power to large areas.
More than 21,300 people were without power across the state Saturday evening according to the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Hundreds of homes had been severely damaged or destroyed and more than 60 roads remained closed, it said.
President Barack Obama declared the flooding a major disaster and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides. Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

35 Pinoys get scholarships for higher studies in Europe

A total of 35 Filipinos will pursue MA and PhD programs in different universities in Europe after they won scholarships under the European Union's Erasmus+ Program in the coming weeks.
This, as the Philippine government continues to assess the possible effects of the United Kingdom's withdrawal of membership from the EU to Filipino scholars pursuing studies in UK territories.
EU Ambassador Franz Jessen together with Mr Mattias Lentz, Minister Counsellor, Delegation of the EU Delegation to the Philippines and Erasmus+ alumni pose with outgoing Erasmus+ scholars who shall study throughout the European Union in the coming months during a reception held last 27 June at the EU Delegation office in Makati City.Photo courtesy of EU Delegation to the Philippines

"We don't have the answers to all the questions at this point. Hopefully, things will become clearer in the coming days as people start to grasp the full implication of UK's exit from EU," said Foreign Affairs spokesperson Charles Jose on Wednesday.
GMA News Online tried contacting EU's office in the Philippines for its comment, but it has yet to respond as of posting time.
According to a statement from the European Union's Delegation to the Philippines, the 35 students were briefed by EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen in a reception held June 27 on their responsibilities as Erasmus+ scholars.
Jessen said Erasmus+ scholars must strive to "become ambassadors of goodwill and agents of change to help strengthen the partnership between the EU and the Philippines."
He also urged the scholars to return to the Philippines after their studies to "give back to their country".
The Erasmus+ scholarship allows scholars to pursue their studies in more than one country for one to two years. It also covers their air fare and tuition and doles out a monthly living allowance of P55,000 to P138,000.
The Erasmus+ exchange program was renamed in 2013 when the EU raised its education and training program from 3.1 billion euros to 5 billion euros. —KBK, GMA News

Pinay's vegan footwear brand making headlines in LA

An LA-based shoe company owned by a Filipino-American aims to deliver "vegan" footwear to modern women looking for stylish and sustainable fashion statements beginning this summer.
Bianca Moran Mabanta's SUSI Studio has already been featured in Forbes and Huffington Post for advocating "a fulfilling and stylish life without partaking in inhumane practices."
"A woman should never have to compromise her values for fashion," Moran told Huffington Post. "Susi is all about cute and conscious consumerism."
The female-owned and -operated studio also has a commitment to "encourage women of all walks of life to take the first step to pursue their passion"  through its "Start Today" campaign.
"We’re all deeply aware of how in this modern day and age, women still need to work ten times harder than men do to prove their worth. It’s because of this that we support each other and push each other’s boundaries to be our best," Moran told Forbes.
SUSI's Summer 2016 line of chunky heels, mary janes, and wedges, also caught the attention of fashion sites such as Los Angeles Racked for its sweet, sensible, Sixties-inspired footwear.
Moran explained in an interview with The Mutant Season in February that the goal of SUSI was to "create vegan options or more sustainable options" for shoes, food, and other retail options.

SUSI was also a way to connect with Moran's Filipino roots and work in a bit of wordplay into her company.
"I was visiting Philippines where my parents were originally from and I didn't really grow up there but I wanted Susi's identity to kinda be tied in with my own roots," she explained.
"And I found out that susi- the word meant "key"- and it kinda sounded like sustainability and I was like, well, I'm trying to build a brand that's sustainable... so the slogan could be the key to sustainable living," Moran added.
Moran is also a filmmaker and restaurateur, having established SUSI Restaurant, a vegan-vegetarian European restaurant, in Bonifacio Global City in the Philippines last year. Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

Campaign to have Pinay war hero flown home launched

GoFundMe page was set up to bring home the only Asian woman to receive the US Silver Star during World War II for burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
The page, set up by a member of the American Legion Bataan Post 600, aims to help the family of Magdalena Estoista Leones fly her body home on July 6.
Leones passed away on June 16 at the age of 95.
The "Lioness of Filipina agents" won the third highest honor for valor in the US Army for risking "her life to carry important intelligence data, vital radio parts and medical supplies through heavily garrisoned enemy-held territory."

From February 27 to September 26, 1944, the Kalinga-born soldier transmitted information on enemy ships and their skippers in La Union to government forces and blew up planes on an airstrip in Tuguegarao.
Leones, who earned the rank of corporal, was caught thrice by Japanese forces but she managed to escape and save the lives of others using the Nihongo she learned while in captivity.
Despite her exploits, Leones decided to keep them secret from her family and moved to California in 1969 to work as a clerk.
Guillermo Tabor, one of her sons, told East Bay Times that they only learned of their mother's past when he did research after his daughter's birth.
"She kept it always a big secret, so now that she's gone, I want to make sure that she gets the honor she deserves," Tabor said.
His daughter once wrote a book report about her and had to bring proof of Leones' heroism to prove the authenticity of her account.
"The teacher didn't believe her... So she brought the medal to school," Tabor said.
Leones' burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani is still pending approval from the Philippine government. Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Pope names Filipino priest as new Saipan bishop

Pope Francis has named Dumaguete native Father Ryan Jimenez as the new bishop of the Church in Oceania.
The 44-year-old prelate will lead as the second bishop of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa in Saipan, the largest island of the Northern Mariana Islands. He succeeds Bishop Emeritus Tomas Camacho, who served the diocese for 25 years until his retirement in 2010.
Serving as a priest for only 12 years, Jimenez has been serving as the apostolic administrator of the diocese with 15 priests and 21 female religious catering to more than 43,000 Catholics.
Jimenez finished his Bachelor of Arts degree in Pre-Divinity from the Ateneo de Manila University before heading to Saipan in 1997.
He also studied at the St. Patrick Seminary and University in California, USA where he earned his Masters Degree in Theology in 2003. He was ordained a priest for the diocese in June of the same year.
Jimenez will be officially ordained as bishop on August 14, 2016, at the Chalan Kanoa cathedral.
Dumageuete Bishop Fr. Julio Cortes deemed the appointment of Jimenez a great news.
“Let us rejoice and pray for Bishop Ryan as he takes on the apostolic responsibility,” Cortes said. —Kiersnerr Gerwin Tacadena/ALG, GMA News

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