THE House committee on public accounts may recommend charges against Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth) officials over corruption issues.
In an interview, chairman of the committte Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor said the panel is ready to file charges.
However, the committee recommendation and report would have to undergo debates and possibly amendments when the panel resumes hearing.
All committee hearings are currently on hold upon the instruction of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.
Defensor said the possible charges against the PhilHealth officials were based on several issues found during the series of investigations conducted by his panel.
The committee on public accounts conducted the investigation together with the House committee on good government and public accountability.
“As to what cases will be filed, in-enumerate namin and I would think, executive na bahala dun unless the committee will decide that we will file individually or collectively as members of the committee in Congress,” Defensor said.
Among those to be charged are Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, being PhilHealth’s chairman and former PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales.
“Yung kay Secretary Duque, dalawa ‘yung case na nakapailalim sa loob ng report,” Defensor said.
The first charge, Defensor said, involves the reversal of the Court of Appeals’ ruling on the case of Cebu-based Perpetual Succor Hospital, which was found guilty of two counts of extending a patient’s period of confinement in violation of PhilHealth law.
PhilHealth has overturned the CA decision by not imposing the three-month suspension and a P10,000 fine on the hospital. The state health insurer instead penalized it with a mere P100,000 fine.
Duque has consistently denied involvement in the implementation of the IRM.
Morales’ case, Defensor said, was due to his involvement in several questionable actions of PhilHealth.
Morales left PhilHealth in August due to health reasons.
“Yung sa kaniya naman, sa execomm (executive committee) dahil sila ang gumawa ng recommendation para dito, sila ‘yung nag-release ng pondo. So all those actions are covered in this report,” he said.
Defensor said that among the complaints that will be recommended for Duque and Morales in relation to the IRM mess are for violation of Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code on illegal use of public funds, as well as for administrative offenses for grave misconduct and grave neglect.
In addition, Defensor has urged Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano to sign the committee report and file the necessary charges against the PhilHealth officials.
PhilHealth payment to PRC
In a related development PhilHealth was urged to immediately settle its outstanding debt to Philippine Red Cross.
Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas, vice chairman of the House Appropriations committee, made the call as he expressed alarm over the stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFW) that need testing for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Reports said that PhilHealth has a standing balance of P1 billion to the Red Cross.
There are 6,000 OFWs awaiting COVID test but the Red Cross cannot administer it due to PhilHealth’s unpaid obligations.
Vargas said PhilHealth should come up with a “gentleman’s agreement” with PRC on how it will settle its debt.
“PhilHealth should show the Red Cross it is capable of paying its debt by drawing up an agreement where the date of payment is set. I believe Red Cross officials are reasonable. They can arrive at a compromise with Philhealth,” he said.
“This is a time-sensitive issue. We already have thousands of OFWs in our quarantine facilities and DOLE says about 100,000 more of our kababayans are expected to return to the country this year. We shouldn’t allow our quarantine facilities to be overwhelmed,” Vargas added.
Vargas said that while he understands PhilHealth’s need to review the agreement with the Red Cross for COVID-19 testing, this can be undertaken without holding off payment to the organization.
“PhilHealth can hire a battery of experts if it must to review the deal, but it should pay the Red Cross immediately. Even a one-day delay in the conduct of COVID-19 tests could reverse the gains we have achieved in fighting the pandemic,” he also said.