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House panels urge filing of raps vs Philhealth execs

THE committees on public accounts and on good government and public accountability on Tuesday afternoon recommended the filing of criminal charges against officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) led by Health Sec. Francisco Duque III and former PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales in connection with the alleged anomalies hounding the agency.

In a joint meeting, Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor, chairman of the House committee on public accounts, announced the adoption of their 65-page committee report on its PhilHealth probe that was jointly conducted by his panel with the House committee on good government and public accountability led by Bulacan Rep. Jonathan Sy-Alvarado.

The report ordered the officials charged on the alleged violations of the now-suspended interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM) for supposed illegal fund releases and the alleged irregularities involving the PhilHealth’s IT system.

“To sum up, PhilHealth does not only have to contend with rampant corruption; half of the pressing problems that beleaguer the corporation are caused by its inept officials who lay down bad policies and decisions,” the report said.

“In what is arguably the most notorious instance of corruption to date that is connected to the corporation, PhilHealth officials involved in the illegal disbursement of public funds through this mechanism anchor their defense on blurry interpretations of the law, none of which will hold water in court,” according to the panel report.

Defensor lamented that PhilHealth pays hospitals and healthcare facilities in advance for insurance claims, to ensure that they could function in crises under the IRM.

The joint panel sought the filing of criminal charges against Duque who sits as an ex-officio board member of the PhilHealth, Morales, and PhilHealth executives Arnel de Jesus, executive vice president and chief operating officer; Israel Pargas, senior vice president for the health finance policy sector; Rodolfo del Rosario, senior vice president for the legal sector who resigned last August; and Rogelio Pocallan Jr, senior manager for the Internal Legal Department, for alleged violation of Section 3 of Republic Act (RA) No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code on the illegal use of public funds, Grave Misconduct, Gross Neglect and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service.

For being part of the PhilHealth Board, the joint panel recommended the same charges against the following members of President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte’s Cabinet, namely: Budget Sec. Wendel Avisado, Social Welfare Sec. Rolando Joselito Bautista, Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez III, and Justice Sec. Silvestre “Bebot” Bello III.

The report also said that PhilHealth board members Maria Graciela Blas-Gonzaga, Susan Mercado, Alejandro Cabading, and Marlene Padua should also be charged.

The joint panel said it will ask the Office of the Ombudsman to file charges of usurpation of judicial function against Duque and several others for not following the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) to suspend the Perpetual Succour Hospital in Cebu for allegedly violating the PhilHealth law.

It also mentioned several PhilHealth officials who should be charged for allegedly giving undue advantage to a number of hospitals for supposedly violating the PhilHealth law.

The report also said that cases should also be filed against those involved in the approval and implementation of the All Case Rate system that allegedly resulted to P102.5 billion of overpayment to hospitals from 2013 to 2018.

It recommend to the Department of Justice (DoJ) the filing of charges for violating the Universal Health Care law against officials and board members of health care institutions and organizations who committed fraud.

The report also mentioned several other irregularities and the joint panel recommended the filing of charges against those involved.