4 PhilHealth execs cleared of graft
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - October 23, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has acquitted four officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) of graft charges in connection with alleged unlawful car insurance payments amounting to P720,878 from 2000 to 2001.

In a 36-page decision promulgated on Oct. 16, the anti-graft court’s Special Second Division cleared former PhilHealth senior vice president for management service sector Reynaldo Dalma and former vice president for finance and now vice president for South Luzon and National Capital Region Gregorio Rulloda of nine counts of violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Also acquitted were administrative officers Joseph Vergara and Maribeth Sincuya of the PhilHealth General Services Division.

The complaint against department manager Nadya Castillo of the PhilHealth Administrative Services was dismissed due to her death in 2017.

Sandiganbayan magistrates said ombudsman prosecutors failed to establish the conspiracy among the PhilHealth officials.

The court said the evidence presented by the prosecution also failed to prove the key element of a graft offense: giving unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference to a private party by public officials.

Filed by the ombudsman in 2014, the cases stemmed from the payment of P720,878 to BF General Insurance Co. Inc. for the premium insurance of the vehicles owned by PhilHealth.

The ombudsman said the cars should have been insured with the Government Service Insurance System in accordance with Republic Act 656 or the Property Insurance Fund Law, which prohibits deals with private firms when it comes to insurance of government-owned vehicles.

The court noted that the order to purchase the insurance policies was initiated by then PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Enrique Zalmea, who was not even included in the charge sheet.

The Sandiganbayan said the PhilHealth officials “had no direct participation in the selection of the insurance company and the approval of disbursement vouchers was merely part of the performance of their official duties.

The decision was penned by Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi with the concurrence of Associate Justices Bayani Jacinto and Maryann Corpus-Mañalac. Associate Justices Oscar Herrera Jr. and Ronald Moreno dissented.

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