PhilHealth probe report: Morales faces raps, Duque spared

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
PhilHealth probe report: Morales faces raps, Duque spared
The criminal charges are for offenses including graft, malversation of public funds and failure to file withholding taxes on reimbursements given in advance to several hospitals.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The multi-agency task force that investigated alleged anomalies in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. has recommended the filing of multiple criminal and administrative charges against resigned PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales and several senior officials of the agency, mostly members of the executive committee.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III was spared, with the task force led by the Department of Justice (DOJ) recommending only that he be “strongly admonished”  for the offenses attributed to the PhilHealth officials.

President Duterte announced the recommendations last night in his weekly report to the nation on the pandemic response.

His spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte had approved the recommendations.

The criminal charges are for offenses including graft, malversation of public funds and failure to file withholding taxes on reimbursements given in advance to several hospitals.

The administrative cases will be for actions and omissions constituting dishonesty, grave misconduct, disloyalty, gross neglect of duty, inefficiency and incompetence, and falsification of documents.

Malacañang earlier said Duterte would respect the recommendations of the task force “regardless of who is involved.”

The task force submitted its recommendations to Duterte yesterday in a 177-page report, details of which were not immediately available.

The Senate, which conducted its own probe, had recommended the filing of charges against Duque. But Duterte expressed belief last week that the health chief is not corrupt.

Duque, as PhilHealth chairman, and members of the board should be admonished, according to the task force, due to the “grave consequence of their action or inaction to PhilHealth funds to the government and its coffers and the interest of ordinary people who rely on the PhilHealth system.”

After Duterte spoke last night, Roque announced in an online post: “The President approved the recommendations of the task force on PhilHealth. (Among) those who will be charged criminally and administratively are ex-president Morales, SVP Aragona, OIC Gabuya, SVP Limsiaco, SVP Pargas, COO De Jesus, Crisostomo, etc.”

Roque claimed Duterte’s remarks would not affect the findings of the task force.

“The President ordered the task force to conduct a fact-finding activity to recommend charges against individuals. I think the President will respect whatever evidence is uncovered by the task force regardless of who is involved,” Roque said at a press briefing.

Asked whether the President would amend the report, Roque replied: “Of course, only the President can answer that question but I doubt it because he (has given) authority to the fact-finding (body) he formed.”

“And I think since he was the one who formed that, he will accept the factual findings of his own task force. Of course, the final say will still be the President’s and we cannot limit his options,” he added.

PhilHealth is under scrutiny over allegations that billions in funds have been lost to fraudulent activities like the purchase of allegedly overpriced coronavirus test kits and information technology equipment, unauthorized release of funds to hospitals that have not yet logged coronavirus infections, and the overstating of hospital claims to the health insurer.

The task force is led by the justice department and composed of the Office of the Ombudsman, Civil Service Commission, Office of the Executive Secretary, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission and Palace Undersecretary Melchor Quitain.

Duque and other PhilHealth officials have denied involvement in anomalies and have expressed readiness to answer the accusations against them.

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