Duterte approves corruption charges vs PhilHealth officials


PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has approved the filing of criminal charges against top officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) for corruption.

In a late night televised address on Monday, the President said a task force he had ordered to investigate the state insurance company recommended charges against PhilHealth President Ricardo C. Morales.

Also included were PhilHealth Senior Vice Presidents Jovita Aragona, Renato Limsiaco, Jr. and Israel Francis Pargas; Chief Operating Officer Arnel De Jesus; and acting Senior Manager Calixto Gabuya, Jr.

“The totality of the evidence presented before the task force supports the honorable conclusion that wrongful acts or omissions on the part of certain key corporate officers of PhilHealth have been committed,” Mr. Duterte said while reading the task force report.

“I am sorry for them but they would have to undergo trial,” he added.

His spokesman Harry L. Roque said Mr. Duterte had approved the recommendations of the body.

The charges will include graft and corruption, malversation of public funds and property and tax-related violations.

Investigators also sought administrative charges against the officials for dishonesty, gross neglect of duty and misconduct, falsification of public documents, disloyalty, inefficiency and incompetence, Mr. Duterte said.

The Senate committee of the whole earlier sought graft and malversation charges against Health Secretary and PhilHealth Chairman Francisco Duque III, Mr. Morales and other executives after they were accused of favoring some ineligible hospitals that benefited from anti-coronavirus funds.

At least 17 senators also signed a resolution urging Mr. Duque to resign for failing to contain the pandemic.

The Senate body found gross overpricing of equipment bought by PhilHealth and favoritism in the release of so-called interim reimbursement mechanism funds.

The mechanism allowed the agency to grant advance payments to health institutions by up to three months during the pandemic, even if only P1 billion had been liquidated.

Former PhilHealth anti-fraud legal officer Thorsson Keith earlier told senators at a hearing the agency’s top officials had pocketed P15 billion through fraudulent programs.

PhilHealth officials have denied any wrongdoing. — Gillian M. Cortez

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