Former Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr. Celestina Dela Serna was “surprised and disheartened” when her name appeared in several news reports as allegedly among those ordered suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman.
In a press statement to the Bohol Chronicle Dela Serna stressed that “for the record, I had long officially severed my ties with PhilHealth and had no connection with that office since I stepped down as a member of the Board of Directors in 2019.”
In one of two orders, Ombudsman Samuel Martirez signed on August 18, 2020, placed under preventive suspension for six months without pay eleven respondents including Dela Serna.
Ex-PhilHealth OIC President and CEO Roy Ferrer who replaced Dela Serna was among the eleven respondents under preventive suspension and was also included in another list of suspended officials by the Ombudsman.
According to the Panay News which sourced its report from Iloilo 1st District Representative Janette Garin, the Ombudsman order stemmed from an old complaint and is not COVID-19 related.
Dela Serna has not received an official copy of the Omdubsman suspension order as of August 22, 2020.
A photocopy of the information obtained by Rappler showed that the suspension order was “in consonance with Section 9 of Administrative Order No. 17 amending Rule lll of Administrative Order No. 07 – Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman and Section 24 of Republic Act (RA) No, 6770 known as the Ombudsman Act of 1989.”
“I deny any wrongdoings and maintain that I was never involved in graft and corruption in my public and private life,” according to Dela Serna’s press statement.
“I am confident that justice and truth will eventually prevail in my favor,”
PhilHealth, described by Senator Panfilo Lacson as a “murky, stinking swamp” is undergoing investigation over alleged P734 million overpriced equipment under the P2.1 billion information technology project, anomalous cash advances under the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) amounting to P14 billion and other irregularities uncovered during the probe.
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Dela Serna was unanimously voted by the PhilHealth Board of Directors on April 10, 2017, as Interim Officer-in-Charge (OIC) President and CEO of PhilHealth following the resignation of Hildegardes Dineros.
In her short stint as PhilHealth OIC President and CEO, Dela Serna was very active in the campaign against corruption and was believed to have stepped on the feet of well-entrenched officials luxuriating in their cushy positions for decades.
As a neophyte in a government corporation with a discreditable reputation of corruption, Dela Serna boldly implemented a rotation of personnel that drew the ire of officials, case rate and process review, and the establishment of a Health Information Data Analysis Committee.
According to the press statement of Dela Serna, the Ombudsman suspension order is “just one of the many harassment cases which old-timers of PhilHealth boldly threatened to file against me.”
President Rodrigo Duterte replaced Dela Serna as OIC President and CEO on June 4, 2018, over controversies surrounding her alleged excessive hotel and travel expenses. She remained a member of the PhilHealth Board of Directors.
The PhiilHealth Board of Directors took the cudgels for the alleged excessive hotel and travel expenses explaining that Dela Serna was granted allowances because her base is not the Central Office since she has yet to secure a formal appointment.
Dela Serna was replaced by PhilHealth Board of Director Dr. Roy Ferrer who was later relieved by ex-Army General Ricardo “Dick” Morales, the present PhilHealth head.
Dela Serna was an appointive member of the PhilHealth Board representing overseas Filipino migrant workers until June 10, 2019, when Duterte ordered Ferrer and Board of Directors to submit their courtesy resignations over ghost dialysis payment scheme.
The mass courtesy resignations demanded by the President was an off-shoot of the ghost dialysis payment to WellMed Dialysis and Laboratory Center Corporation.
Dela Serna was the former Chief of Hospital of the Maribojoc Community Hospital and the Congressman Natalio P. Castillo Sr. Memorial Hospital in Loon. She obtained her Doctor of Medicine degree from the De la Salle University in Dasmarinas, Cavite in 1989.
At present, she is a member of the Bohol-Technical Working Group-Inter-Agency Task Force (TWG-IATF) tasked to map-out measures to slow down the spread of Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19. (Chito M. Visarra)