Human Face

A PhilHealth ghost story

I got some ribbing for writing some weeks ago that fiction detective story about bags of rice being cremated in place of real cadavers. It was inspired by recent baffling happenings that involved high-profile prison inmates who supposedly died of COVID-19 or some other malady.

Some have asked for a Part 2 to resolve the mystery. I would only answer with, “You continue and provide the ending.”


(I have been reading “The Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction” edited by Edward Gorman.)

After that “detective story” comes now a ghost story that is also baffling. The word ghost here refers to a nonexistent physical entity, it refers to conjured situations that could make people believe there is something there when there is none, an invention with the purpose of making people believe the unbelievable.


If persons can be made to die in order for them to resurrect, the dead or not-so-dead could also be made to come alive and collect handsome bounties. Tricksters, shysters, and highwaymen employ all kinds of modus operandi to get their dream loot.

Very recently, someone I know very well forwarded to me a text message that supposedly came from PhilHealth, the government health insurance system that ensures that Filipinos get health care when they need it. PhilHealth is the government agency that is right now, as everyone knows, in the glare of media and at the center of Senate inquiries for funds — in the billions — that should be accounted for. Where did they go?

The text message was in this format: “We have REIMBURSED the Hospital for patient (Patient Y, the recipient of the message who answers to the name). Confinement 2019-XX-XX 00:00:00-(confineout)@ (name of hospital), INCORPORATED amounting to (XXXX). IN CASE AMOUNT WERE NOT DEDUCTED FROM YOUR HOSPITAL BILL, contact the Hospital concerned or visit nearest Philhealth office or call (cell phone number) for info.”

The recipient of the message was baffled because he/she was not anywhere near that hospital at all for treatment, consultation, or any diagnostic test during the date cited or at any time during that year.

How did PhilHealth or the sender get the name and phone number of Patient Y? We could only suppose that the personal information came from PhilHealth’s database.

“Reimbursement” here could mean several things. One, the hospital was reimbursed for services it did not provide to Patient Y and so the hospital and its accomplices were the richer for it. Two, the reimbursement was meant for Patient Y in case the said amount “were not deducted from your hospital bill” and therefore Patient Y was to contact the number provided. And then?

Three, Patient Y, who was not confined at all, could get temped to collect the “reimbursement” even though hospital services were never rendered. Four, the texter claiming to be from PhilHealth, Patient Y, and the hospital could agree to connive. But first Patient Y might check out the so-called reimbursement.


The smart thing for an honest Patient Y to do was to call the number provided and ask innocently who he/she was talking to and why that text was sent—but without first saying that he/she was never confined in the said hospital. What was the message supposed to mean? Did it mean that a “reimbursement” was forthcoming? And what was Patient Y to do next to get that “reimbursement” if at all?

This modus is not so unlike what conmen do to clueless damsels promised expensive gifts by their supposed foreign suitors, but first the supposed recipients of the gifts (jewels, etc.) must remit an amount so that the gifts can get through Customs. Once the conmen receive the amount, they vanish without a trace.

But why the need for a Patient Y when PhilHealth’s sticky fingers and the hospital’s magicians can simply “reimburse” themselves? I suspect they would need a Patient Y, a third party in case of an investigation. Someone has to be the live proof of health services rendered. Of course, Patient Y could be rewarded for the cooperation.

That folks, is one ghost story that is not about ghosts but about malevolent beings that bedevil this sick nation.

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TAGS: Human Face, Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, PhilHealth anomalies
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