House panel: Duque, Morales liable in PhilHealth mess
House panel: Duque, Morales liable in PhilHealth mess
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - October 27, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor confirmed yesterday that a joint House panel had found Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and former Philippine Health Insurance Corp. president Ricardo Morales liable for the PhilHealth corruption anomalies.

Defensor, chairman of the House public accounts committee and co-chair of the joint panel that investigated the PhilHealth issue, said they have found basis to file criminal and administrative charges against Duque and Morales.

He bared that the draft committee report includes the recommendation to file charges for violation of Section 3 of Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) and illegal use of public funds under Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code for the criminal aspect and grave misconduct and grave neglect of duty for the administrative aspect.

Defensor said the joint panel with the committee on good government and public accountability chaired by Bulacan Rep. Jonathan Sy-Alvarado will convene today to tackle and approve the findings of their technical working group (TWG) as a result of the congressional inquiry.

“We’re not saying that they are automatically guilty. We just found enough basis to file criminal and administrative charges against them and this will allow them to defend themselves before the appropriate agencies,” Defensor explained.

“As far as the joint committee is concerned, we did not hide anything and we did not protect anybody. Everybody witnessed the evidence we gathered during the hearing,” Defensor said.

Defensor said Duque was found answerable on the apparent disregard of the Court of Appeals’ ruling on the case of Cebu-based Perpetual Succor Hospital, which was found guilty of two counts of extending a patient’s period of confinement in violation of PhilHealth rules.

PhilHealth “overturned” the CA decision by not imposing a three-month suspension and a P10,000 fine on the hospital. PhilHealth, instead, penalized the hospital with a P100,000 fine.

Defensor said the report also faulted Duque for the controversial interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM) that allowed PhilHealth to issue cash advances to hospitals and other healthcare institutions.

“The point of the TWG report is that these (transactions) went through the Board and he is there as chairman of the Board that approved those. If Secretary Duque said he did not sign any of those then let him prepare the defense for that,” the lawmaker stressed.

Morales, on the other hand, was found liable as head of the PhilHealth executive committee.

“He is answerable as part of the execom that made the recommendations for these illegal actions and that also released the said funds,” Defensor explained.

Defensor and Alvarado both said earlier that the TWG report is not yet final and may still be revised, depending on results of the deliberations of their joint panel.

Red Cross

Meanwhile, Surigao del Norte Rep. Ace Barbers slammed the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) for allegedly blackmailing the government by suspending its COVID-19 tests due to PhilHealth’s P930-million unpaid bill for past tests.

Barbers, chair of committee on dangerous drugs, said PRC has no right to demand such payment due to its flawed contract with PhilHealth.

“PRC has no right to impose on the government and demand payment for the alleged testings done on people. For one, it was learned that the PRC has no valid contract with PhilHealth over the alleged mass testing to be charged to PhilHealth. The MOA (memorandum of agreement) between PhilHealth and PRC is illegal since PhilHealth has no authority to enter into a MOA and grant PRC the advance payments,” he alleged, saying he would prove this in the coming days.

Barbers explained that the contract provided for advance payment to PRC, which was contrary to the memorandum issued by the Palace that all partnerships with the organization would be through “reimbursements and not advance payment as done by PhilHealth.”

The lawmaker warned that the blackmailing scheme might backfire on PRC.

“If only for alleged unpaid dues you will resort to blackmailing, I wonder why the University of the Philippines has not evicted you yet from its property over which allegedly you have not paid rent for years,” he hinted.

Barbers urged the PRC to be true to its purpose of helping people in distress.

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