'Walang makakaloko': Whistleblower says Duque should face raps over PhilHealth mess

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 15 2020 01:42 PM | Updated as of Sep 15 2020 02:41 PM

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MANILA - Health Secretary Francisco Duque III should face charges over alleged anomalies in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, a former PhilHealth official and whistleblower said Tuesday. This, despite a government task force report recommending charges against only 7 PhilHealth officers for both administrative and criminal liability.

Speaking to ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, DOJ Spokesperson Undersecretary Markk Perete said the justice department could include more names once it finishes its investigation on PhilHealth.

The initial 7 will be charged with violation of Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, violation of the Revised Penal Code, and even the National Internal Revenue Code and the Civil Service laws.

They are:

Former President/Chief Executive Officer Ricardo Morales
-Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer Arnel De Jesus
-Senior Vice President Jovita Aragona
-SVP Renato Limsiaco, Jr.
-SVP Israel Francis Pargas
-OIC Calixto Gabuya, Jr.
-Division Chief Bobby Crisostomo
 
"'Yung recommendation for the filing of the complaints, as well as 'yung administrative cases against certain officials nakabase 'yan sa what we have so far seen sa evidence presented to us,” Perete said.

Perete said that based on the evaluation of the task force, it found negligence on both the board as well as the executive committee of PhilHealth. But he explained that the law requires gross and inexcusable negligence.

“On the part of the executive committee, ang nakita ng task force 'yung kanilang request for approval ng board ginawa nila by concealing certain documents by not informing the board on certain information and sila din nag craft ng policies, standard and operation procedures na incomplete,” he said.

However, while the task force finds negligence on the part of the board, it failed to reach the gross negligence required by law.
 
“Kaya the task force concluded na while negligence 'yung board, which is headed by Secretary Duque, hindi klaro na grossly negligent sila to merit yung criminal liability,” he said.

The task force’s recommendation, which he said was approved by Duterte, was for the President to to strongly admonish the chairman and members of the board, and to remind them of the grave consequences of their action or inaction.

INCLUDE DUQUE IN CHARGE

Whistleblower and former PhilHealth anti-fraud officer Thorrson Montes Keith, however, rejected that Duque was simply negligent and did not know about the anomalies inside PhilHealth considering his long history with the state insurer.

Duque was first appointed PhilHealth president in 2001 before moving to the DOH in 2005 and Civil Service Commission in 2010.
He was reappointed health secretary in 2017.

“Kunwari sa negligence na tinitingnan nila. Wala pong makakaloko kay Secretary Duque d'yan. Siya po ang pinaka-matalino d'yan sa lahat. Naging PCOO din siya ng PhilHealth ng napakatagal, naging member of the board siya kahit na CSC commissioner po siya,” Keith pointed out.

He claimed many of the people in the Office of the Corporate Secretary are Duque appointees.

"Lahat 'yan tao n'ya po d'yan lalo na 'yung CorSec. 'Yung CorSec po kasi mina-manipulate niya mga inilalabas na data, mga information…so tao po niya yung CorSec ng PhilHealth saka tao po niya lahat po d'yan,” Keith said.

Keith, who earlier revealed that around P15 billion in public funds had been pocketed by so-called "mafia" in PhilHealth, said the government task force could have just been careful about building an airtight case.


"The legal truth is different from the actual truth, what you can present before the court is the legal truth," he said.

The Task Force PhilHealth on Monday submitted to President Duterte its report on the alleged corruption inside PhilHealth.

In a statement, DOJ said the report consists of 177 pages, excluding annexes, rendering the task force's "initial findings" and "recommendations to the President."

Perete said it cannot disclose yet its findings since the investigation is still ongoing.

“Meron pa tayong binuo na composite teams. In fact, 'yung report na isinubmit sa Malacanang, kay Pangulo, ang laman noon essentially pertain to 3 matters pa lamang but there are other matters that are being investigated still by the composite teams,” he said.

He explained that the report focused on the approval and implementation of the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM); the approval of budget for the purchase of information and communication technology; and the corporate policies and practices relating to the investigation, prosecution and the imposition of penalties against hospitals, healthcare professionals and even healthcare personnel.

Perete said the composite teams are working on conducting an audit of cases handled by PhilHealth’s legal sector and the IT sector.
 
The task force, composed of representatives from the DOJ, 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.

He said the testimonies provided by Keith became the task force’s lead.

“Without those leads, it would be difficult to start 'yung investigation. So it’s really very important 'yung kanilang participation sa work ng task force. Without those leads, malamang mas mahihirapan 'yung task force to pinpoint specific acts and transactions na may anomalya o irregularity,” he said.

The task force also evaluated documents submitted by resource persons, as well as reports and summaries of various cases and reports and recommendations from other agencies, including the Senate.

Perete said the task force no longer took the testimony of Keith, to avoid duplication on the work of the Senate but instead relied on the statements he gave before the upper chamber.

“Medyo limited ang timeframe ng task force, 1 month to submit the report. But at the same time, 'yung kaniyang mga naisawalat sa Senado that task force found them more or less complete and comprehensive kaya 'yun ang ginamit natin for our investigation,” he said.

He reiterated that a preliminary investigation will still be conducted as the task force’s work is just on fact-finding.

“The OMB (Office of the Ombudsman) and the prosecutors will be the one conducting the preliminary investigation on these cases,” he said. “Ang importante sa PI, kumpleto 'yung document and evidence to be presented before the prosecutors and 'yun ang naging work ng task force,” he said.