House panels want charges vs Duque, Morales over PhilHealth mess

House panels want charges vs Duque, Morales over PhilHealth mess
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier informed the committee that he would be unable to attend the first hearing, saying he has been busy addressing the outbreak of dengue in many parts of the country.
Michael Varcas / File

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 7:04 p.m.) — Two committees of the House of Representatives are recommending criminal and administrative charges against Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other Cabinet officials sitting in the board of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. over their involvement in alleged anomalies in the state health insurer.

The House panels on public accounts and good government and public accountability want Duque, along with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to be slapped with administrative charges, graft and technical malversation over the controversial interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM).

Also among those the panels want slapped with those charges are:

  • PhilHealth executive vice president and chief operating officer Arnel De Jesus
  • PhilHealth senior vice president Israel Francis Pargas
  • PhilHealth senior vice president Rodolfo Del Rosario Jr.
  • PhilHealth senior manager Rogelio Pocallan Jr.
  • PhilHealth board member Maria Graciela Blas-Gonzaga
  • PhilHealth board member Susan Mercado
  • PhilHealth board member Alejandro Cabading
  • PhilHealth board member Marlene Padua

The committees said in their 65-page report that they found "abuses" in the implementation of the IRM, a program where PhilHealth can release funds to eligible healthcare institutions in times of "fortuitous events."

Some fortuitous events wherein the IRM was utilized was when Supertyphoon Yolanda hit in 2013, when Taal Volcano erupted in January of this year, and when the country was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"While the idea behind the IRM may be commendable, the mechanism itself is flawed and encourages large scale corruption and collusion between PhilHealth officials and healthcare institutions," the report read.

The report said that the IRM was made available even to healthcare institutions and healthcare professionals not accredited by PhilHealth.

It also flagged reports that certain healthcare institutions were given preferential treatment with regards to the distribution of the IRM.

The report also said that the IRM allocations for COVID-19 were "excessive," with the committees estimating that these were 712% higher than what should have been given. — Xave Gregorio

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