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DoJ: Raps in OMB’s court

We’ll leave it to the OMB to determine the effect of such liquidation on any administrative or criminal liability of respondent Philhealth officials

Hananeel Bordey

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The fate of Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) officials charged over anomalies involving funds of the state insurer is now up to the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB), the Department of Justice (DoJ) said on Wednesday.

“The task force (against corruption) had filed the complaints pertaining to the IRM (Interim Reimbursement Mechanism) with the Office of the Ombudsman. So we’ll leave it to the OMB to determine the effect of such liquidation on any administrative or criminal liability of respondent Philhealth officials,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

This came after PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Dante Gierran on Tuesday said up to 92 percent of the P15 billion worth of the agency’s funds initially believed to have been lost to fraud has been liquidated.

If public funds were spent not for Covid-19 as required under the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism but for dialysis centers and infirmaries and which are clearly not authorized, it can still be declared as liquidated.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, however, argued the liquidation of the PhilHealth funds that were suspected pocketed by its officials doesn’t mean it was disbursed legally.

“Liquidation is different from audit. Say, if public funds were spent not for Covid-19 as required under the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism but for dialysis centers and infirmaries and which are clearly not authorized, it can still be declared as liquidated — but it does not mean funds were legally disbursed,” Lacson said in a text message.

“That is why, as we already know, some former and current PhilHealth officials presently face charges from the (DoJ)-led task force,” Lacson added.
IRM mess
Former PhilHealth anti-fraud legal officer Thorsson Keith last year claimed the funds went missing due to the IRM and overpriced equipment purchases which are among the fraudulent schemes of members of the state firm’s executive committee.

Earlier this month, the DoJ-led Task Force PhilHealth officially endorsed to the OMB the report of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) based on its investigation on alleged fraudulent membership enrolment activities and benefit claims made at the PhilHealth Regional Office 1 (Northern Luzon).

Criminal and administrative complaints were recommended against 25 incumbent and former officials of the state health insurance firm, most of whom are from the regional office.

The charges include falsification of public documents under Article 171 in relation to Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC); malversation of public funds under Article 217 of the RPC, usurpation of authority under Article 177 of the RPC; violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act; violations of the National Health Insurance Act of 1995, as amended by Republic Act 9241 and Republic Act 10606 and administrative liabilities for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, DoJ Assistant Secretary Neal Vincent Bainto said.

The charges stemmed from a fake account created at the PhilHealth Regional Office 1 under the name “Pamela Del Rosario” which had retroactive contributions applied by having these ante-dated.
It was found out that 27 fraudulent claims were then made under the account.

Gierran’s call
The report also recommended charging PhilHealth officials and employees tasked to investigate the alleged fraudulent scheme and their consequent failure to prosecute those involved in the incident.

Following the corruption claims that hounded PhilHealth, President Rodrigo Duterte has named Gierran as the new chief of the state firm.

Last 13 January, the National Bureau of Investigation has filed violations of Section 3 (e) and (j) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Misappropriation of Funds of the Corporation violating Section 44 of the RA 10606 or the National Health Insurance Act of 2013, and administrative cases of Grave Misconduct, Gross Negligence and Conduct against PhilHealth officials.

Named as respondents of the case are former PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales, executive vice presidents Arnel de Jesus and Renato Limsiaco, senior vice president Israel Francis Pargas, and 10 other PhilHealth officers including regional officers.

Also included in the charges are three employees of the dialysis center — B. Braun Avitum — which is accused of enjoying favors from the IRM.

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