The Justice department-led task force probing into the alleged widespread corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) has finally submitted its 177-page report to the Office of the President (OP) on Monday.
President Rodrigo Duterte approved the task force’s recommendation to charge former PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales, Senior Vice Presidents (SVP) Jovita Aragona, Renato Limsiaco, and Israel Francis Pargas, Officer-in-Charge Calixto Gabuya, Jr., COO Arnel de Jesus, and Division Chief Bobby Crisostomo for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Article 213 of the Revised Penal Code.
The recommendation came after a tedious series of seven hearings lasting over 30 hours, non-stop evaluation of the testimony of 14 witnesses, reports and summaries of various cases against PhilHealth, as well as reports and recommendations from other bodies, including the Senate.
Amid the hustle and the in-depth report of the task force, we can’t help but ask: Where is PhilHealth’s former SVP for Legal Sector Rodolfo del Rosario, Jr.? And more importantly, where’s Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III, who was tagged as the “godfather” of the “mafia” within PhilHealth that allegedly plundered billions of pesos?
Senate President Vicente Sotto III shares the same sentiment. “No Duque? No Del Rosario? I’m dumbfounded! Article 217 (Malversation) of the [Revised Penal Code] is very clear. Perhaps the Ombudsman would have a better perspective of the anomalies,” Sotto lamented, who chaired the committee that investigated PhilHealth at Senate.
Sotto asserted that Duque, who also serves as chairman of the PhilHealth board of directors, is also liable, at least for abandonment or negligence amid the alleged widespread corruption in the state-run health insurer. With that, the health secretary should also be guilty of misappropriation or malversation of funds or property according to Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code.
Months before the PhilHealth investigation, senators, other government officials, health experts, and the general public have been calling for Duque’s resignation due to the alleged misuse of DOH’s funds and mismanagement of the COVID-19 situation in the country.
Despite these controversies, Duterte — the person who created Task Force PhilHealth — repeatedly defended Duque, saying that as long as the health secretary is not corrupt, he will enjoy the president’s “full trust.” Whatever’s the reason behind Duterte’s trust in him, it is the only thing that keeps Duque safe in his post and absolved from the allegations hounding the PhilHealth and the DOH.