President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday approved the Department of Justice-led task force’s recommendation to file criminal and administrative charges against resigned Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) President Ricardo Morales and other officials over anomalies within the state insurer.

Duterte read the task force’s report on Monday night during his weekly address.

“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 the PhilHealth have been committed,” the report read.

Aside from 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 were also criminally and administratively charged.

“I am sorry for them but they would have to undergo trial. Although, they can always prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Wala pa namang ano pa e. The presumption of innocence still attaches but the report of another agency says otherwise. So ganun ho ang nangyari sa PhilHealth, halos lahat sa board,” Duterte said.

The report stated that negligence exhibited by the PhilHealth officers violated Republic Act (RA) 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) and was tantamount to malversation of public funds or property and the illegal use of public funds and property, gross misconduct and gross neglect of duty under Civil Service rules.

In addition, the officers may be held liable for violations of the National Internal Revenue Code in connection with their failure to withhold taxes on IRM  (interim reimbursement mechanism) releases.

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.”

Charges were recommended against the following:

  • Aragona, Gabuya and Crisostomo, for allegedly violating Section 3(a) of RA 3019 for their roles in ICT procurement and the concealment of important information;
  • Morales, Aragona and Gabuya, for allegedly violating Section 3(e) and Section 3(g) of RA 3019 as well as Article 213 of the Revised Penal Code;
  • Morales and Limsiaco, for alleged malversation of public funds of property in relation to the disbursement of IRM funds prior to the effectivity of the pertinent circular;
  • Morales, de Jesus, Limsiaco and Pargas, for allegedly violating Section 3A, Republic Act 3019;
  • Pargas, for the release of IRM funds despite the lack of sufficient standards of implementation; and
  • Morales, de Jesus, Aragona, Limsiaco, Gabuya and Crisostomo, administrative charges for dishonesty, gross neglect of duty, grave misconduct, falsification of official documents, disloyalty to the Republic of the Philippines and to the Filipino, inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of official duties and of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

PhilHealth has been under investigation since its anti-fraud officer, Thorrsson Keith, revealed corrupt schemes in the state health insurance firm, through which members of the PhilHealth “mafia” had allegedly pocketed about P15 billion.

Morales earlier resigned to focus on his battle with lymphoma. He was replaced by ex-National Bureau of Investigation director Dante Gierran, who vowed to rid the state insurer of corruption. John Ezekiel J. Hirro