Concerned officials could be held liable for at least 632 cases of malversation over the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) “illegal” advanced payments to health care facilities under its Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM), according to Senator Panfilo Lacson.
Lacson said on Wednesday that the figure corresponds to the number of PhilHealth’s IRM releases that the Senate Committee of the Whole flagged as “illegal and invalid”.
“There are at least 632 acts of malversation if we will follow the line of the Committee Report 107,” Lacson said during the interpellations on the Committee of the Whole’s report in their plenary session.
“Each act of malversation would constitute malversation of public funds. Since there were 632 disbursements deemed illegal under the committee report, there are 632 cases of violation of Article 217 [of the Revised Penal Code],” he said.
Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code says public officers are accountable for public funds or property and should likewise be guilty of the misappropriation or malversation of such.
The committee report said over P14 billion of IRM releases to health care institutions (HCIs) from March 25 to June 9, 2020 are deemed illegal and improper since the memorandum circular for its rollout only took effect on June 11.
Lacson noted that each disbursement was covered by a memorandum of agreement between the HCIs and the PhilHealth, proving that these were “separate acts” of malversation of public funds.
He also raised that of the 632 disbursements, 339 involved amounts exceeding P8.8 million, which, according to the law, is punishable with reclusion perpetua.
The report, sponsored by Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday and signed by 22 senators, recommended the filing of malversation, graft and other criminal charges against Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, resigned PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales and other senior officials for the alleged irregularities in the implementation of the IRM amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state insurer was accused of giving preference to allegedly favored HCIs while delaying the claims of bigger hospitals that cater to coronavirus patients.
PhilHealth officials repeatedly denied the claim. Duque also maintained that he had no hand in the corporation’s implementation of the IRM.
The Senate will resume next week its discussions on the panel’s recommendations on the PhilHealth mess.