Lizada says CSC chair issued guidance to withhold info on PhilHealth officials’ cases

Marje Pelayo   •   August 25, 2020   •   115

MANILA, Philippines — Some information on cases involving officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) are allegedly being withheld.

This was revealed during the hearing on Tuesday (August 25) by the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability and the House Committee on Public Accounts on the alleged corruption within the agency.

The lawmakers initially asked officials of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) who were present at the hearing regarding cases that have been filed with the agency against PhilHealth executives .

CSC Assistant Commissioner Ariel Ronquillo was not able to provide a specific number of cases so the lawmakers asked Commissioner Aileen Lizada.

The official said there have been 74 cases filed in the CSC Central Office since 2010.

Of the said number, 19 are pending including the ones involving high ranking PhilHealth officials.

The panel questioned Ronquillo why he was not able to give the information when he was supposed to be the representative of CSC Chairperson Alicia del Rosa-Bala in the hearing.

Lizada then revealed that there was an instruction from the CSC Chairperson not to give out any information about the PhilHealth officials’ cases.

“If my recollection serves me right: ‘This information should not be made public nor be given out to anyone who would be asking either in aid of legislation or investigation,’ parang ganun. Iyon ang natatandaan ko, (Something like that. That’s what I remember),” said Lizada.

But according to Ronquillo, the instructions were to keep the information confidential.

“[The] instruction of the chair was to ensure that this matter will be kept confidential and not to be shared to the public, but will be shared if needed in any of the investigations being conducted concerning PhilHealth. So there is no guidance to suppress evidence,” he said.

Lizada said her office is conducting an inventory of all cases after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a task force to investigate the alleged anomalies in the state insurer.

The House panel will resume its inquiries for the CSC in the next hearing on Thursday where CSC Chairperson Bala has been invited for a chance to respond to the queries.

Meanwhile, the audio recording of the meeting where the said guidance was mentioned has been subpoenaed to shed light on Commissioner Lizada’s claim that there had been an order not to disclose information about PhilHealth officials’ cases with the CSC. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Duterte commends Ombudsman’s efforts in PhilHealth probe

Marje Pelayo   •   September 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has nothing but praises for the Office of the Ombudsman on its investigation on the irregularities inside the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

In the duration of the probe, Ombudsman Samuel Martires suspended for six months 13 officials of the embattled agency.

The president said the relationship between the executive branch and the ombudsman has improved a lot.

“No other time na ang rapport ng Ombudsman sa Executive department ay maganda ang samahan. [There’s no other time that the rapport between the Ombudsman and the Executive department is smooth.] It’s a matter of human relations. How you present the problem. And I find Martires, a very reasonable man,” the President said. 

He said he also understands Ombudsman Martires’ desire to finally end the controversies in PhilHealth.

“Iyong (pinalabas) ng PhilHealth, sunod-sunod. Sabi ko, I think he’s trying his best to help us. Kung ganoon ang sitwasyon, at least we’re better off. At least, for now,” President Duterte said. -MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte approves filing of cases against Morales, et al

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 15, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the filing of charges against former Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) CEO Ricardo Morales and other officials allegedly involved in the ‘mass corruption’ inside the agency.

“The issue of PhilHealth corruption was really an important issue to the Filipinos and to everybody. And everybody again is also placed in jeopardy by the actions of the officials,” the President said.

“I’m sorry for them but you have to undergo 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. So ganun ang nangyari sa PhilHealth. Halos lahat sa board,” he added.

Based on the investigation of Task Force PhilHealth, several officials have violations of withholding taxes regarding the interim reimbursement mechanism, graft, and malversion. They will also be facing charges for dishonesty, grave misconduct, disloyalty, gross neglect of duty, inefficiency and incompetence, as well as falsification of public documents.

The officials who will be facing the said charges aside from Morales are Senior Vice President Renato Limsiaco Jr., Senior Vice President Jovita Aragona, Officer-in-Charge Calixto Gabuya Jr., Senior Vice President Israel Pargas, Executive Vice President and COO Arnel De Jesus, and Division Chief Bobby Crisostomo.

Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who is also leading the Task Force PhilHealth, said they are still continuing their investigation.

“Our composite teams will continue their ongoing investigations and special audits and file legal actions as they finish one case after another,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, PhilHealth released a statement saying the involved officials are prepared to follow the President’s mandate and will cooperate in the process. AAC (with reports from Dante Amento)

Duque not yet cleared from PhilHealth mess – Palace

Marje Pelayo   •   September 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) Task Force PhilHealth may have finished its probe into the alleged irregularities within the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) but Malacañang said the matter is not yet over for Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Duque is not yet cleared from the controversy even after President Rodrigo Duterte named some officials of the state insurer who he ordered to file administrative and criminal charges against. 

To the surprise of many, Duque was not in the list. 

Task Force PhilHealth recommended to the President to admonish the officials of the agency from the chairman down to the members of the board for their actions and inactions on matters concerning the funds of PhilHealth.

Roque stressed that investigation on PhilHealth issue is far from over.

“This is only the beginning,” Roque said.

“Nakasaad din po sa report na magpapatuloy po ang imbestigasyon ng NBI at ng DOJ, at magpapatuloy pa rin po ang imbestigasyon ng Ombudsman [The report also stated that the investigation of NBI and the DOJ will continue as well as of the Ombudsman],” he added.

Among the issues that still need to be investigated include the alleged negligence concerning the ratification of the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) of the agency; the alleged overpriced ICT procurement deal; and the agency’s failure to investigate and prosecute those who are involved in corrupt practices.

Roque revealed that aside from Duque, there are also some members of the Cabinet who are ex-officio members of PhilHealth’s Board of Directors.

He further said that one more thing to look into is the concealment of records by some members of the executive committee from the members of the board of directors. 

“Kinakailangan pagsabihan ang chairman at ang members of the board including ang five members of the Cabinet na kinakailangang mas matindi ang kanilang pagbabantay sa pondo ng kabang bayan nang hindi po nawawala sa ganitong paraan [We must remind the chairman and the members of the board, including the five members of the Cabinet, that there is a need to strictly safeguard the national budget so we will not lose it like this],” Roque stressed. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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