Duterte approves filing of criminal charges against PhilHealth officials

President Rodrigo Duterte approved the recommendation of an inter-agency task force that looked into alleged corruption activities in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to file criminal and administrative charges against resigned PhilHealth President and Chief Executive Officer Ricardo Morales and other key corporate senior officials.

Duterte read the recommendations of the Task Force PhilHealth during his talk to the people after holding a meeting with core members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on September 14, 2020.

“I have to read this because first, the issue of PhilHealth corruption was really an important issue to the Filipinos and everybody,” Duterte said. “I’m sorry for them, but they will have to undergo trial, although they can always prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The presumption of innocence is still attached.”

In its 177-page report and recommendation submitted to Duterte on Monday, the Task Force PhilHealth said the totality of the evidence presented before the task force supports the conclusion that wrongful acts or omission on the parts of certain key corporate officers of the PhilHealth have been committed.

Others recommended to be charged are Senior Vice President (SVP) and Chief Information Officer Jovita V. Aragona, senior Information and Communication Technology officer Calixto Gabuya Jr., Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Arnel De Jesus, SVP Ernesto Limiasco Jr., SVP Israel Pargas, and Division Chief Bobby Crisostomo.

The task force said the officers of the PhilHealth Executive Committee exhibited negligence and administratively and criminally liable under Republic Act (RA) 1319 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Law and Revised Penal Code.

The task force also recommended that the concerned PhilHealth corporate officers be held liable for certain violations of national internal revenue code “in connection to their failure to withhold taxes on IRM (Interim Reimbursement Mechanism) releases”.

The task force also recommended that Duterte “strongly admonish and remind the chairman (Health Secretary Francisco Duque III) and members of the PhilHealth board of the grave consequence of their actions or inactions to PhilHealth fund, to the government and its coffers, and to the interest of the ordinary people who rely on PhilHealth”.

Among the specific recommendations of the task force are:

  • The filing of criminal charges against the following persons is hereby recommended in relation to various ICT procurement including the concealment of important information in relation thereto, violation of Section 3A, RA 1319 against Aragona, Gabuya, and Crisostomo;
  • The filing of charges over violation of Section 3A, Republic Act 1319 against Morales, Aragona, and Gabuya;
  • The filing of charges over violation of Section 3G, Republic Act 1319 against Morales, Aragona, Gabuya, and PRO-NCR personnel;
  • The filing of charges over violation of Article 213 of the Revised Penal Code against Morales, Aragona, and Gabuya;
  • The filing of charges in relation to the disbursement of Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) funds prior to the effectivity of the pertinent circular and malversation of public funds of property under 217 of the Revised Penal Code against Morales and Limsiaco Jr.
  • The filing of charges over violation of Section 3A, RA 1319 against Morales, De Jesus, Limsiaco, and Pargas; and
  • The filing of charges in relation to the release of IRM funds despite the lack of sufficient standards of implementation against Pargas in relation to the non-withholding taxes of the IRM funds disbursement.

“The filing of administrative charges against the following persons in relation to the above described actions or omission is likewise recommended. Dishonesty, gross neglect of duty, grave misconduct, falsification of official document, disloyalty to the Republic of the Philippines, and to the Filipinos, inefficiency, and incompetence in the performance of official duties and of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the people against Morales, de Jesus, Aragona, Limsiaco, Gabuya, and Crisostomo,” Duterte read from the task force’s report and recommendation. (Jelly Musico, PNA)