Duterte won't hesitate to fire 'soldier of principles' Morales if found corrupt â Palace
Combination photo shows President Rodrigo Duterte and Philippine Health Insurance Corp. chief Ricardo Morales.
The STAR, File photos
Duterte won't hesitate to fire 'soldier of principles' Morales if found corrupt — Palace
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - August 12, 2020 - 4:01pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte views Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) chief Ricardo Morales as a "soldier of courage and principles" but he won't hesitate to fire him if there is proof that he is into anomalies, Malacañang said Wednesday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Morales' fate hinges on the findings of the multi-agency task force formed to look into the alleged corruption and fraudulent activities in the state-run insurer.

"As far as the fate of general Morales is concerned, the president has said, ‘I believe in his integrity, I believe he is a soldier of courage and of principles.’ But he will await the results of the task force," Roque told CNN Philippines.  

"He (Duterte) has said that I don’t care if you were my political supporter, I don’t care if you’re close (to me), if you’re corrupt then you will have to go," he added.

PhilHealth, which administers the national health insurance program, is facing scrutiny following allegations that billions in funds were lost due to a "culture" of corruption and illegal acts carried out by a "mafia." Investigators are also looking into the alleged purchase of overpriced coronavirus test kits and information equipment and the supposed padding of hospital claims to the state-run insurer. PhilHealth officials have expressed readiness to cooperate with investigators, saying they have nothing to hide.

Roque said Duterte won't pressure Morales to take a leave of absence, noting that the PhilHealth chief has a serious illness. Morales, a retired Army general, is suffering from lymphoma and has been advised by his doctor to go on leave to undergo chemotherapy. The PhilHealth chief has said he would go on medical leave starting next week.

"The president is really a very kind person. Since Morales is sick, he will not add pressure to general Morales and I think that’s a good trait...not a bad one. It’s up to Morales what he wants to do but the process of investigation will continue," Roque said.

"But meanwhile, he (Duterte) has said, 'I believe that he is a man of principles, particularly his record during the RAM (Reform the Armed Forces Movement) days, he’s a man of guts.' But he wants to await the decision of the task force that’s why he created it in the first place," he added.

Roque said the task force, composed of the justice department, the Office of the Ombudsman, Civil Service Commission, Office of the Executive Secretary, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission and Palace Undersecretary Melchor Quitain, is expected to conclude its probe within 30 days.

"We expect that in the next 30 days there will be decisions to either impose preventive suspension, lifestyle check or outright suspension given that all the agencies concerned that could suspend and terminate and charge individuals within the bureaucracy are present and made members of the task force," the Palace spokesman said.

The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, the Senate, and the House of Representatives are also investigating the purported irregularities in the state-run insurer.

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