MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday approved the filing of criminal and administrative charges against former Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) president Ricardo Morales and other officials over alleged corrupt practices.
Duterte, in his weekly public address, read the report submitted to him by Task Force PhilHealth on its recommendations regarding the corruption scandal hounding the state health insurance agency.
The task force said the evidence and results of their investigation support their conclusion that several officers of PhilHealth violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Aside from Morales, the task force recommended charges against PhilHealth Senior Vice President for Information Management Sector Jovita Aragona, Acting Senior Manager, Information Technology and Management Department Calixto Gabuya Jr., Senior Vice President for Fund Management Sector Renato Limsiaco Jr., Senior Vice President for Health Finance Policy Sector Israel Francis Pargas, and Executive Vice President, and Chief Operating Officer Arnel De Jesus, among others.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the President approved all of the recommendations of the task force.
"The issue of PhilHealth corruption was really an important issue to the Filipinos and to everybody, and everybody, again, is placed in jeopardy by the actions of the officials," Duterte said.
"I'm sorry for them but they have to undergo a trial. Although, they can always prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt...The presumption of innocence still attaches, but the report of another agency says otherwise," he added.
The task force, composed of representatives from the Department of Justice, the Office of the Special Assistant to the President (OSAP), the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), among others, talked to 14 witnesses in the course of 7 hearings.
The Senate Committee of the Whole earlier recommended the filing of graft and malversation charges against Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who chairs the PhilHealth board; Morales; and other executives of the state-run insurance firm after they allegedly authorized the release of COVID-19 funds to health facilities not catering to coronavirus patients.
At least 17 senators also signed a resolution urging Duque to step down as health chief, saying he has failed to address the spread of COVID-19 in the Philippines.
The alleged corruption issues in PhilHealth surfaced as the country faces a health crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 265,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases have been reported in the Philippines, as of Monday, of which, nearly 54,000 are active infections. The death toll stood at 4,630, while 207,504 patients have recovered. - with a report from Jervis Manahan, ABS-CBN News