Ex-PhilHealth chief Morales sues whistleblower for cyber libel

Ex-PhilHealth chief Morales sues whistleblower for cyber libel
Former PhilHealth CEO and President Ricardo Morales filed cyber libel complaints against whistleblower Thorrsson Montes Keith on Friday.
News5 / Marianne Enriquez, Twitter

MANILA, Philippines — The former chief of the embattled Philippine Health Insurance Corp. filed cyber libel complaints against lawyer Thorsson Montes Keith, whistleblower in the corruption controversy surrounding the state insurer.

Former PhilHealth CEO and president Ricardo Morales accused Keith, who earlier said there is a “mafia” within the state insurer, of violating Section 4(c)(4) of Republic Act 10175 or committing cyberlibel.

“He has, without basis and with actual malice, falsely branded me as a ‘coddler’ of the corrupt and as an ‘assassin,’” Morales said.

In a Senate hearing on August 4, Keith, former anti-fraud legal officer of the agency, said executives of PhilHealth stole P15 billion from its funds. He told the senators in Filipino: "What we found at PhilHealth is the crime of the year due to the syndication of the distribution of cash advance, the interim reimbursement mechanism, and the repeated overpricing of purchased IT equipment.”

But Morales denied Keith’s accusations against him and said these were “vindictive” and “unfounded,” which cause “irreparable damage to [his] otherwise impeccable public service record.”

In particular, Morales cited Keith’s interview with Dobol B sa News TV and with TV Patrol on July 27, with ABS-CBN News Channel on August 2, and with ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo on August 15.

Morales said that when he and his family watched the videos and read the subsequent articles, he was “humiliated and distraught by such baseless and malicious allegations.”

“Without a doubt, Respondent Keith’s statements have placed me in a bad light in the public’s eye. Respondent Ketih’s acts are indeed criminal in nature,” the complaint further read.

“When Respondent Keith uttered his defamatory statements against me, they were simultaneously livestreamed over the internet. Hence, he committed the crime of Grave Slander by, through, and with the use of information and commutations technology,” the complaint read.

Investigation into PhilHealth

Citing health reasons, Morales stepped down from his post in the middle of investigation into the start insurer.

President Rodrigo Duterte has since picked former National Bureau of Investigation chief Dante Gierran to lead the embattled agency.

Morales and several other officers of the agency are facing multiple complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman, following the Department of Justice-led Task Force PhilHealth that looked into the state insurer.

The DOJ said investigations continue and more people may face complaints in the future. — Kristine Joy Patag with reports from News5/Marianne Enriquez

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