Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday said he believes President Rodrigo Duterte would not prevent the prosecution of anyone in his Cabinet if there is clear evidence of wrongdoing.
“If evidence should turn up against anyone, regardless of position, I believe that the President, who has prosecutorial blood running in his veins, will not impede the legal process from taking its due course. The DOJ will simply continue what it has been directed by the President to do; that is to bring any and all lawbreakers at PhilHealth before the bars of justice,” Guevarra said in a message to reporters.
This is in response to Duterte’s statement, saying he sees no reason to charge Health Secretary Francisco Duque III in connection with irregularities hounding the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).
“I view the President’s statement as an expression of trust, not of exoneration,” he added.
On Monday, Guevarra said the Senate or the House of Representatives are free to file their own complaints against erring PhilHealth officials.
Guevarra reiterated that more persons would be charged by the Task Force PhilHealth which is looking into irregularities as its investigation goes deeper into the state insurer’s affairs.
Last week, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) formally endorsed to the Office of the Ombudsman the complaint against former PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Ricardo Morales and other senior officials including executive vice president Arnel de Jesus, senior vice president Renato Limsiaco, senior vice president Israel Francis Pargas and vice presidents Gregorio Rulloda, Imelda Trinidad de Vera, Lolita Tuliao, Gemma Sibucao, and Lailani Padua.
The complaint involves anomalies in the implementation of PhilHealth’s interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM) which provided for the grant of cash advances to healthcare institutions in Metro Manila.
The said mechanism is provided for under PhilHealth Circular No. 2020-0007 and allowed the release of funds during natural disasters and armed conflicts. Up to 33 percent or P5 billion of the P14.9 billion released through IRM has been liquidated.
PhilHealth officials are charged with violation of Sections 3(e) and 3 (i) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, malversation of public funds or property, violation of Sections 251, 255, and 272 of the National Internal Revenue Code, and Section 4 of Republic Act 1051, which requires government agencies to deduct and withhold taxes in payments made to private institutions and individuals.