2 PhilHealth execs want suspension reversed over 'half-baked' probe

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 03 2020 02:41 PM

MANILA — Two officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth) have asked the Office of the Ombudsman to set aside their preventive suspension in connection with recent corruption allegations at the state health insurer.

PhilHealth senior vice president Dennis Mas and lawyer Lawrence Mijares, in a motion for reconsideration submitted by their lawyer, said they were not accorded due process as they did not receive a copy of the full complaint that led to their suspension. 

“While there is no vested interest in public office, herein respondents are entitled to their dignities and should not be objects of half-baked investigation,” said their lawyer Dennis Manicad.

Mas and Misares assailed the complainants who were already branded as “victims-complainants” in a “premature finding” by the Office of the Ombudsman.

“The basis for the preventive suspension are polluted sources because the complainants were subjects of administrative cases which had not been declared as illegal and therefore presumed legal and regular,” Manicad said.

Despite repeated requests from the media, the Office of the Ombudsman has not issued any official statement on the preventive suspension order against PhilHealth officials which cropped up during legislative investigations on alleged corruption at the agency.

Copies of the motion for reconsideration were also sent by the lawyers of Mas and Mijares to Miriam Grace Pamonag, identified as a complainant, as well as Jerbert Galicto, Dennis Adre, William Chavez, Paolo Johann Perez, Khaliquzzman Macabato and Valerie Anne Hollero.

Mas and Mijares reiterated that the complainants were already tagged by Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, as the real "mafia" at PhilHealth following an inquiry.

“The unmasking of the ominous mafia is already in the horizon when the preventive suspension was issued on a matter entirely alien to the current public debate. All of a sudden, the already exposed mafia by Senator Richard Godon of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee came out not as villains but as conquering heroes,” Manicad said.

Mas and Mijares added that the reasons for the issuance of preventive suspensions do not apply to their case as far as their positions at PhilHealth are concerned.

“There is absolutely zero danger of spoilation or manipulation of documents because the complainants have copies of these documents and all are public documents,” Manicad said.

The 2 officials also reiterated their innocence on the alleged corruption issues, specifically on the questioned release of Interim Reimbursement Mechanism funds and the computerization project of the agency.

The IRM is a system of early fund disbursements to hospitals in case of unforeseen events. The Senate investigation found alleged irregularities in the release of IRM funds earlier this year, as dialysis centers were among big recipients, instead of the intended COVID-19 hospitals.

“The legal presumption of regularity of official functions had been destroyed on the mere self-serving says so of a group who has not even won or reversed the cases against them,” Manicad said.

The pair also said that their suspension orders have “deleteriously” affected the daily operations of PhilHealth.