Sotto lauds PhilHealth's Morales for heeding call to step down

Senate President Vicente Sotto III has lauded Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) president and chief executive officer Ricardo Morales for heeding President Duterte's order for him to step down amid the controversies in the agency.

Sen. Vicente Sotto III (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)
Sen. Vicente Sotto III (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

After Duterte's reported request for him to quit his post, Morales said in an interview on Wednesday that he will submit his resignation letter within the day. He also thanked Duterte for trusting him to lead the government-run corporation.

" Correct move. Follow your Commander-in-chief," Sotto said in a text message sent to reporters following the retired general's announcement.

Sotto said Morales' resignation, however, does not spare him from the liabilities in the alleged irregularities that have been happening in PhilHealth.

" No sacred cows!" said the Senate chief, who led the chamber's investigation on reports of widespread corruption in the agency.

Asked specifically on the Senate's findings about Morales, he replied: "Tip: Lahat sapul (All are hit)."

"Wait for my report," he added.

Senators earlier grilled Morales and other PhilHealth senior officials over the reported corruption in the agency, particularly, the allegedly overpriced information technology system project proposed by the management; the promotion of officers who were involved in previous controversies; the questioned reimbursements to select hospitals and health facilities; and the supposed mismanagement of the agency's funds amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Morales, during the hearings, stood firm that there was no irregularity in his agency's engagements.

He also denied being involved in the so-called "mafia" that has allegedly been defrauding the state insurer of millions of funds. But he admitted that the "systemic" problem of the corporation with fraud and corruption is not easy to solve.

Sotto said the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee's belated report on its legislative inquiry on the issues in Philhealth over the past several years will complement the Committee of the Whole's upcoming report.

"Blue Ribbon targets the regional while the Comm of the whole targets the Execomm and top officials. We will finalize ," he said in a separate message.

Senator Richard Gordon, Blue Ribbon Committee chairman, disclosed on Tuesday the findings of its hearings last year on PhilHealth's alleged irregularities in the Department of Health.

Gordon recommended the filing of charges against former Health secretary and now Congresswoman Janette Garin and other officials for alleged corrupt practices, technical malversation, and entering into contracts that are disadvantageous to the government.