PhilHealth chief Morales heeds Duterte call to resign

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 26 2020 08:17 AM | Updated as of Aug 26 2020 09:02 AM

PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo C. Morales attends a Senate Hearing on alleged fraudulent medical claims, Aug. 14, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — The head of state medical insurer PhilHealth, which is battling allegations of corruption and mismanagement, said Wednesday he would heed President Rodrigo Duterte’s call to leave his post.

Duterte had asked PhilHealth CEO and President Ricardo Morales to step down due to his medical condition, the justice department earlier said.

Morales said he would submit his resignation to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Wednesday morning.

“Nagpapasalamat na rin ako sa Pangulo na pinayagan niya akong magpahinga. Maaatupag ko na iyong aking kalusugan at iyong aking pamilya,” he told ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo.

(I also thank the President that he allowed me to rest. I can now take care of my health and my family.)

Morales, a former military general, earlier this month sent a medical certificate signed by his attending oncologist disclosing that he was undergoing cancer treatment.

BATTLE WITH CORRUPTION CLAIMS

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Whistleblowers in a Senate inquiry this month had accused Morales of repeatedly approving allegedly overpriced projects and the release of funds to supposedly favored hospitals. A purported “mafia” in PhilHealth also pocketed P15 billion in public funds, witnesses claimed.

Morales, who has denied that a mafia is embedded in his agency, told TeleRadyo has signed a waiver to open up his bank records and agreed to a lifestyle check.

PhilHealth submits to Congress a weekly report and receipts of its interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM) or financial aid to medical facilities, he said.

“I am confident there is not an iota of evidence,” Morales said. “I am confident that a thorough and fair investigation will clear us out.”

The PhilHealth chief said he was also ready to face any criminal or administrative case. “Occupational hazard iyan e,” he said.

Morales said he would go “back to anonymity” after his resignation.

“Para akong nabunutan ng tinik,” he said. “Malaking pasalamat ako sa Pangulo natin… He never wavered in his confidence in me and I am so humbled by his loyalty. Tunay na kaibigan.”

PARTY-LIST HITS DUTERTE, MORALES

Duterte’s request for Morales to step down “doesn't do justice to millions of Filipinos who were robbed of funds amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said women’s party-list Gabriela.

“His call for Morales' resignation is in fact based on the latter's medical condition, and not based on the widespread corruption in the agency which was unmasked in the Senate and House hearings,” the group said in a statement.

Duterte “cannot wash his hands clean over the Philhealth mess” because he signed the Universal Healthcare Law that gave the agency more funds. He also “blessed the rollout of the P30-billion” IRM, said the party-list.

Gabriela also expressed “extreme disgust” over a party at the PhilHealth Mimaropa office, where an almost-naked woman danced in front of an official reportedly celebrating his birthday.