Ex-PhilHealth chief, other officials not yet off the hook
The resignation of Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) president Ricardo Morales has been accepted by President Duterte but it won’t immediately absolve him from any liability amid an ongoing corruption probe in the State health insurance firm, Malacañang said Thursday.
“Tinanggap na po ang resignation ni Gen. Morales. Wala pa pong kapalit (The resignation of Gen. Morales has been accepted. There is no replacement yet),” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said during a Palace press briefing about the President’s action on the resignation of Morales.
Asked if the resignation of Morales and other officials would absolve them of administrative or criminal liabilities, Roque said: “No, the law is very clear if there is criminal liability incurred when you’re in office it subsists and public officers can be held liable for them whether or not they continue to be in office.”
Even Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said resigned officials of PhilHealth will not be spared if they are found liable for corrupt activities at the State-run health insurer.
Guevarra, convenor of Task Force PhilHealth which is investigating anomalies at the government corporation, pointed this out following the resignations this week of Morales and PhilHealth senior vice president for the legal sector Rodolfo del Rosario.
“At the end of this investigation, we hope to be able to build up enough cases against persons responsible for the PhilHealth mess, whether or not they continue to be in PhilHealth’s employ,” Guevarra said.
“The quiet investigation being conducted by Task Force PhilHealth is running well, although we are aware that our resource persons are not telling us everything that we ought to know,” the Guevarra said.
Roque said the President expressed hopes the resignation of Morales will lead to his recovery from his current ailment.
“The President has always been of the opinion that health should come first,” he said.
“Kinakailangan magpagaling po si Gen. Morales at ang sa tingin ni Presidente makakabuti naman sa kaniya ang desisyon na mag-resign na muna ng makapag-concentrate siya sa kaniyang kalusugan (Gen. Morales must recover and the President thinks his decision to resign will be good for him so he can concentrate on his health),” he added.
Morales submitted his resignation on Wednesday in the wake of the corruption allegations hounding PhilHealth.
The retired military general earlier denied allegations he was the coddler of the fraudulent schemes in the firm amid criticisms over his supposed weak anti-corruption efforts.
He was appointed to the top PhilHealth post in July, 2019.
The resignation of Morales came after Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra confirmed that the President noted his ailment and stated it was best to give up his post during the critical times in the State health firm.
The Palace invoked executive privilege in refusing to discuss the President’s position about Morales then.
Roque admitted that there are already “names being considered” to lead PhilHealth but the President is being careful about his selection.
With the PhilHealth position now vacant, Roque said the President is looking for next PhiliHealth president who has a reputable character and good management skills.
The next appointee must not have a tinge of corruption as well as must have expertise in health and insurance system, according to Roque.
He said the President wants someone who will be his partner in cleaning up PhilHealth, restoring public trust, and implementing the Universal Health Care program.
Guevarra said the person President Duterte should pick to lead the PhilHealth must have a steep experience in financial management and deep understanding of the law, and has a good amount of charisma to inspire and rally the good people at PhilHealth to start rebuilding the public’s trust in and respect for their agency.
Meanwhile, Task Force PhilHealth has already conducted several hearings and seven persons from PhilHealth have testified as resource persons.
Among them were Del Rosario and PhilHealth senior vice president for Finance Policy Management Israel Pargas who appeared last Monday. Del Rosario resigned thereafter.