THE SENATE committee that investigated the alleged widespread corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) has recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against those involved in irregularities, including top ranking officials.
The Senate committee of the whole is also expected to propose legislation that will amend current laws to strengthen and improve the PhilHealth system.
Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III, in his sponsorship speech, said Health Secretary and PhilHealth Board Chairman Francisco T. Duque III, and recently resigned PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Ricardo C. Morales are among those liable for malversation and illegal use of public funds and violation of the anti-graft law.
Their liability involves the “improper and illegal” implementation of the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism(IRM), a cash advance system that is intended to help medical institutions maintain operations, especially during emergency situations such as the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis.
“PhilHealth estimated P3.3 billion for the cost of COVID-19 for the entire 2020. Pero, ang budget na nilagay nila ay (But the budget they allocated was) P26.8 billion (and) as of June 9, 2020, P14 billion na ang na- (has been) released,” Mr. Sotto said.
Mr. Sotto said there are irregularities in the P14 billion released so far.
Other PhilHealth officials who will be facing the same charges include Senior Vice Presidents Renato Limsiaco and Israel Francis Pargas, and Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Arnel de Jesus
Senior Vice President Jovita Aragona and Acting Senior Manager Calixto Gabuya are also found liable for corrupt practices, concealment of documents, and violation of procurement law, in relation to the overpricing of information technology supplies.
The committee report further recommends that the health care institutions that received the questionable cash advances should immediately liquidate the used amounts.
The Senate panel also recommended that top officials of the agency, including regional vice presidents, resign from their posts.
Meanwhile, President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered the reshuffling of PhilHealth officials, particularly the regional heads, as he announced the appointment of former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Dante A. Gierran as the state insurer’s new top executive.
“You know, if they are there for so long a time, the element of familiarity always enters the picture. Iyan ang mahirap diyan (That is where the problem comes in),” Mr. Duterte said in a televised talk and meeting with some of his top officials late Monday.
Mr. Gierran, who was present during the meeting, said, “Restoring the trust and confidence of our people to PhilHealth is equivalent to restoring the trust and confidence to our government,”— Charmaine A. Tadalan and Gillian M. Cortez