Resigned PhilHealth legal chief says conscience clear amid corruption allegations

Aleta Nieva Nishimori, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 28 2020 02:49 PM

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MANILA - A former legal officer of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth) said on Friday he was ready to face any investigation into the alleged widespread corruption in the state health insurer and is willing to submit himself to a lifestyle check.

“Tayo ay nakahandang harapin ang lahat ng imbestigasyon dahil ang sabi ko nga po my clear conscience is the best argument. Kahit po nalulunod tayo sa ingay at intriga tayo po ay handang humarap at tayo po ay confident that we are not guilty of all these charges,” said former PhilHealth Senior Vice President for Legal Sector Rodolfo del Rosario Jr.

(We are ready to face any investigation and as I’ve said, my clear conscience is the best argument. Even though we are drowned out by the noise and intrigues, we are still ready and confident that we are not guilty of all these charges.)

In an interview on ABS-CBN's Teleradyo, Del Rosario said that in his willingness to clear his name, he had been one of those who signed the bank secrecy waiver and is willing to subject himself to a lifestyle check.

"Malinis ang aking konsensiya. Wala po tayong kinasangkutan na kahit ano mang usapin na will derail the national health insurance program or to take advantage of our position. Confident po tayo doon," he said.

(My conscience is clear. We are not involved in anything that will derail the national health insurance program or take advantage of our position. We are confident there.)

Del Rosario tendered his irrevocable resignation to give way to his successor and to look for another job opportunity. He is one of PhilHealth officials meted a preventive suspension for 6 months without pay by the Office of the Ombudsman.

“We are fully cooperating. I have my reasons for submitting my resignation. I need to focus din sa aking pansariling kalusugan (also on my health) and to find a new job. I cannot afford to be unemployed for the next 6 months. Hopefully, may tumanggap sa atin sa trabaho. Tayo po ay tapat maglingkod at mayroon naman po tayong kakayahan na naipakita natin sa mga nakaraang taon (Hopefully, I’ll find a new job. I am sincere and have the capability which I have shown in the past),” he said.

The Department of Justice, leading a task force investigating the PhilHealth mess, earlier cited the low criminal prosecution rate of the legal sector which Del Rosario headed. 

Del Rosario said that since PhilHealth was created, only 11 cases were filed, and most of these were dismissed during preliminary investigation by prosecutors.

He said criminal complaints filed during his time at the PhilHealth legal office increased by 100 percent, from 11 to 22. 

He likewise cited that there could have been a mix up of numbers when he was interviewed by the task force. He said he had mentioned 70 formal charges filed in 2019, including disciplinary cases, and "thousands of cases that were acted against health care providers."

He also stressed that under his watch, the number of investigations conducted increased by 19 percent. The prosecution department, which was also under his supervision, filed more cases compared to the same period before his time.

In 2018, the prosecution department filed 1,700 formal charges with the adjudication office. 

“Nung 2019 hanggang 2020, kahit po tayo nagkaroon ng pandemya, nag-file ang prosecution department ng 3,675 counts of charges against our health care providers. Ito ay against 176 na mga hospitals at iba pang facilities at 108 doctors ang sangkot po dito. Dahil sa mga imbestigasyon na ito, 5,375 counts of charges ang nai-file natin sa ating adjudication office,” he said.

(In 2019 up to 2020 even though there’s a pandemic, the prosecution department has filed 3,675 counts against our health care providers. This is against 176 hospitals and other facilities and 108 doctors are involved here. Because of these investigations, 5,375 counts of charges were filed with the adjudication office.)

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In another interview, DOJ Undersecretary Markk Perete said a composite team would conduct a legal audit based on the testimony given by Del Rosario to the task force that thousands of cases against employees and around 1,700 against health care institutions (HCIs) were not filed.

“Ayon sa kanya, 2 'yung types na tinitingnan, mayroong administrative cases, mayroong cases against HCIs. Siya mismo nagsabi na 11 'yung nai-file na criminal cases out of the 1,700 during his term. 'Yung administrative naman hindi niya masabi kung gaano kadami. Ang sinasabi lang niya thousands, hindi niya kami mabigyan ng eksakto. That’s the reason why we asked for an inventory ng lahat ng cases,” he said.

(According to him they are looking at administrative cases and cases against HCIs. He said so himself that 11 criminal cases were filed out of the 1,700 during his term. He couldn’t give us an exact figure of how many administrative cases have been filed. He only said in thousands. That’s the reason why we asked for an inventory of all cases.) 

Del Rosario said that they have recommended to their regional offices the filing of criminal complaints against 1,003 healthcare providers.

“But so far, several regions have responded at hindi pa po substantial. In that regard, I do agree that we have a serious challenge in terms of filing of these criminal complaints before the DOJ and before the courts,” Del Rosario said.

Meanwhile, Perete said the task force has so far conducted 4 hearings and created the composite teams to hold parallel investigations on PhilHealth’s IT and legal departments. He said they are still in the process of collecting testimonial and documentary evidence from PhilHealth officials. 
 
“I think by next week, our composite teams will be going to PhilHealth to check the inventory as well as validate 'yung documents which were submitted to us,” he said.

The task force was given one month to submit a report and its recommendations to the Office of the President.

“We will come up with the report on the 14th of September. But we do understand kung gaano kalalim 'yung problema sa PhilHealth and malamang (how deep the problem is within PhilHealth probably) we will go beyond the September 14 deadline for the other things that we have to do for PhilHealth,” said Perete.

Part of the mandate given to the task force is not only to file cases but also to recommend certain changes within PhilHealth, he said.
 
The task force investigation as well as legislative inquiries were triggered by testimonies from whistleblowers who alleged deeply entrenched corruption at the state health insurer, including supposed overpriced procurement and overpayments to favored hospitals.