DOJ Sec. Menardo Guevarra
By Tracy Cabrera
MANILA — Although the process may be slow in the prosecution of those involved in anomalies within the Philippine Health Corporation, justice secretary Menardo Guevarra assured the public that justice will be served as the day of reckoning has already started against corrupt officials of the country’s premier health insurance firm.
In a statement, Guevarra promised that a string of criminal and administrative cases would be filed against the corrupt PhilHealth officials in connection with irregularities costing billions of pesos that brought the state insurer to the brink of financial collapse.
“We want to convey the message to the people that the anti-corruption campaign of the government is a continuing effort,” he stressed.
“While our system of justice grinds rather slowly, we can assure that it works and that justice will eventually be served,” he added.
The justice secretary made the statement after a task force led by the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) earlier this week moved to slap criminal and administrative charges against senior PhilHealth officials, including its former president and chief-executive-officer retired general Ricardo Morales.
Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday said the government must keep up the campaign to hold accountable everyone involved in fleecing PhilHealth in the middle of a pandemic.
“This is one good reason why the Senate must keep going in performing our oversight function as our collective responsibility to the people of the Philippines,” Lacson enthused in reference to last year’s inquiry into alleged irregularities in the state health insurance agency by his colleagues.
The inter-agency Task Force PhilHealth had earlier endorsed the filing of administrative and criminal complaints in the Office of the Ombudsman against 25 PhilHealth officials for the ‘ghost’ and ‘double claims’ racket.
Its recommendation was based on findings of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC), which conducted its own investigation into several fraudulent schemes that resulted in the loss of about PhP154 billion in PhilHealth funds since 2013.
On Monday, January 11, a similar charge of graft and malversation of public funds was filed by the NBI against Morales and other ranking officials of the state insurer.
The NBI alleged that Morales, who resigned in August last year amid the Senate inquiry, and his former subordinates provided ‘unwarranted benefits’ to private dialysis service provider B. Braun Avitum Philippines Incorporated.
It said Morales and the others ‘conspired’ to unlawfully facilitate the release to B. Braun of P33.8 million in emergency funds that were taken from the PhP30-billion Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM), which was specifically allocated for treating Covid-19 patients.
It was the second complaint that the NBI had filed against the resigned PhilHealth chief regarding the supposed misuse of the IRM, which the state insurer intended to help public and private healthcare institutions that were dealing with the pandemic.
In October last year, the NBI brought a criminal complaint in the Ombudsman also against Morales and eight senior PhilHealth executives in connection with the alleged irregular release of IRM funds to dozens of hospitals.
Morales had previously denied flouting the anti-graft law and other existing rules in awarding financial assistance to B. Braun and other hospitals, despite several of them having pending cases with PhilHealth. (AI/MTVN)