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May banta? Potential key witness in PhilHealth mess begs off from hearing, Ping says

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A potential key witness in the corruption row at the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) has begged off from testifying, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Wednesday.

Lacson identified the witness as Col. Etrobal Laborte, who recently resigned from his post as head executive assistant to PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales.

“Sabi niya meron siyang naramdaman sumusunod sa kanya. And anyway nag-resign na rin siya so he wanted to leave it at that but ito before the hearing nariyan siya uli, sabi niya he’s willing. Nag-join siya sa aming Zoom meeting, virtual meeting along with Atty (Thorrsson) Keith and Board Member (Alejandro) Cabading. Disappointing na bigla siyang logout, nakalogin siya una, pero biglang hinahanap namin wala na, leave na, hindi na nakatapos,” Lacson told reporters in a virtual interview.

He said Laborte had signified some weeks back he was willing to provide information on the corruption at PhilHealth.

Lacson said Laborte is aMarine officer who opted for early retirement to study at AIM and Ateneo.

He applied to be Morales’ assistant then at the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, and then to PhilHealth.

Lacson said Laborte and Keith believe Morales had been co-opted by the syndicate at PhilHealth.

Also, Lacson said Laborte would be a big loss to the investigation as he has provided much information.

“Medyo marami siyang alam. Nagwi-withhold siya even before he decided to testify. Kung mag-all out siya marami siyang sasabihin. Noong una nga unang attempt niya excited, he really wanted to give it all so to speak,” he said.

He added Laborte was to furnish documents and other information to the Senate.

On the other hand, Lacson noted Laborte had mentioned to him that he did not want to be labeled a “squealer.”

“Sabi ko sa kanya kung tama ang pinaglalaban mo di squealer ang tawag diyan, advocacy yan. Gusto mo itama ang mali tumutulong ka. Kanya-kanyang pananaw. So I leave it up to him magdecide kung attend siya next hearing,” he said.

Lacson also said that while the Senate can force Laborte to testify via a subpoena, he wants to talk to him first as he does not want to waste Laborte’s goodwill.

“Ayoko humantong sa ganoon i-subpoena siya and compel him to testify dahil hindi naman hostile ang pakikitungo niya sa amin in fact siya nag-volunteer sa amin 3 weeks ago pa siya nag-volunteer gusto ng audience na di natuloy,” he said.

“I’ll try to talk to him ang kanyang pag-testify sana wag balewalain… I’d like to believe tutulong pa rin siya kahit di siya mag-testify. Tutulong pa rin siguro,” he added.

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