President Rodrigo Duterte has approved criminal and administrative charges against at least eight top officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) for various violations of the Anti-Graft Law and the Revised Penal Code.
In a televised meeting Monday night, Duterte revealed that Task Force Philhealth recommended several charges against the state health firm's former president and chief executive, Ricardo Morales; executive vice president and chief operating officer Arnel de Jesus; two senior vice presidents, and other department heads and officers in charge.
The task force also recommended that theå President "strongly admonish and remind" the board members of PhilHealth—which includes Health Secretary Francisco Duque III as its chairman —for their "careless approval" of procurement and fund release orders that led to corruption and has cost the government billions of pesos in taxpayers' funds.
"Everybody is placed in jeopardy by the actions of these officials," the President told Cabinet members present at the meeting, including Duque.
"I am sorry for them, but they will undergo trial, they have the presumption of innocence, unless the report of anoother agency says otherwise," he said.
Others cited for charges by the task force report for "wrongful acts" aside from Morales and de Jesus ― as mentioned by Duterte ― are Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Jovita Aragona; SVP Renato Limsiaco Jr.; SVP Israel Francis Pargas; and Information Technology department officers Calixto Gabuya Jr. and Bobby Crisostomo.
Earlier, the Department of Justice-led task force submitted to Duterte a 177-page report on the alleged widespread corruption and anomalies in the state-owned firm, but declined to reveal its recommendation and findings.
The Office of the Ombudsman has preventively suspended 13 PhilHealth officials over the allegations. Its officers and officials of the Commission on Audit were also part of the task force commissioned by the President.
In a statement, the DOJ said it investigated 14 witnesses in the course of seven hearings on irregularities in the health insurer.
The DOJ said the task force also looked at reports and summaries of various cases, whether under investigation or for resolution; documents submitted by resource persons; and reports and recommendations by other bodies, including the Senate.
“Task Force PhilHealth rendered the initial findings and submitted its recommendation to the President,” the statement said of the 177-page report, including voluminous annexes.
“As the task force awaits any further directives from the President, its composite teams will pursue further targeted investigations of specific acts of fraud or corruption committed by health providers and PhilHealth personnel alike,” the DOJ stressed.
Meanwhile, pending complaints and cases will be resolved by the agencies concerned with dispatch, it said.
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