Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who was earlier tagged as the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) mafia “godfather,” was not among the seven officials recommended to be charged criminally and administratively over irregularities in handling the state insurer’s funds.
Duterte on Monday approved the Department of Justice-led task force’s recommendation to file criminal and administrative charges against resigned PhilHealth President Ricardo Morales, PhilHealth Senior Vice President (SVP) Jovita Aragona, Officer in Charge Calixto Gabuya Jr., SVP Renato Limsiaco Jr., SVP Israel Pargas, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Arnel de Jesus and Division Chief Bobby Crisostomo.
As secretary of the Department of Health, Duque is also ex-officio chairman of PhilHealth’s board of directors.
Duterte had repeatedly reassured his trust in Duque in publicly aired meetings with Cabinet officials and Covid-19 task force members.
On Sept. 7, Duterte told Duque that he had “full trust” in him and that the health chief had no reason to resign despite being tagged as among those responsible for allowing corruption in PhilHealth.
In August, resigned anti-fraud officer Thorrsson Keith tagged Duque as the “godfather” of the “mafia” within PhilHealth that had allegedly stolen P15 billion.
The Senate Committee of the Whole earlier recommended filing malversation and graft and corruption charges against Duque for “grave abuse of discretion or gross negligence in ascertaining the [interim reimbursement mechanism] beneficiaries without valid criteria for distribution.”
Duque refuted the committee’s report, saying its recommendations were baseless as he did not sign the resolution that authorized the faulty reimbursements.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, chairman of the Senate Committee of the Whole, said Duque’s negligence was enough to implicate him.
The task force recommended that Duterte “strongly admonish” and remind PhilHealth officials of “a grave consequence of their action or inaction to the PhilHealth fund, to the government and its coffers and to the interest of the ordinary people who rely on PhilHealth assistance.”
Sotto on Tuesday said he was “dumbfounded” that Duque escaped charges.
“No Duque? No del Rosario? I’m dumbfounded! Article 217 of the RPC (Revised Penal Code) is very clear,” Sotto told reporters.
Article 217 of the RPC covers misappropriation or malversation of public funds or property.
The Senate president said he hoped the Office of the Ombudsman’s probe would “have a better perspective of the anomalies.” John Ezekiel J. Hirro