President Rodrigo Duterte has issued an ultimatum to new Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) chief Dante Gierran to cleanse the corruption-ridden firm by December 2020, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said on Thursday.
“It is an ultimatum. You need to clean up PhilHealth by the end of the year,” he said when asked to interpret what to make of President Duterte’s consideration to dismantle or privatize the state corporation.
Roque said Gierran was given instruction to “file all the cases that need to be filed” and “suspend and terminate” all erring PhilHealth officials within the deadline.
The chief executive reportedly broached the idea to abolish or privatize the beleaguered state firm during a meeting with leaders of Congress in Malacañang on Wednesday
Roque confirmed that the President considered the options, however, noted that the decision would still depend on Congress.
“Because PhilHealth was created pursuant to law, amended by the Universal Healthcare Law and it depends on the wisdom of Congress, if they feel that the legislative basis for the existence of PhilHealth should be amended, so be it, the President will respect that,” he said.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, on the other hand, is for the reorganization of PhilHealth upon a recommendation by the Governance Commission for Government-owned and –controlled Corporations (GCG).
“Of course there are proposals na i-abolish lang iyan or palitan na lang iyan ng some new institution or what ano. Pero ako ang tingin ko, baka naman mayroon pang pupuwedeng gawin. That’s why we recommended to the President to direct the GCG para gumawa ng sarili nilang evaluation for a possible reorganization ng PhilHealth (Of course there are proposals to abolish it or change it into some new institution. But for me, I think we can still do something. That’s why we recommended to the President to direct the GCG to evaluate for possible reorganization),” Guevarra said.
Guevarra, who heads the Task Force PhilHealth, also reported that “sufficient evidence” has been secured against all PhilHealth executives implicated in the anomalies hounding the state firm.
“For those na na-identify na namin, I think we have sufficient evidence para ma-consider ito ng Ombudsman for the possible finding of probable cause (For those we have identified, I think we have sufficient evidence for this to be considered by the Ombudsman for the possible finding of probable cause),” he said. “But we will not preempt the Ombudsman. From our point of view, I am saying that we have sufficient evidence.”
The task force has initially recommended the filing of criminal complaints against PhilHealth’s ex-chief Ricardo Morales; executive vice president and chief operating officer Arnel de Jesus; senior VP Jovita Aragona; senior VP Renato Limsiaco Jr.; senior VP Israel Francis Pargas of the Health Financial Policy Sector; officer in charge Calixto Gabuya Jr.; and division chief Bobby Crisostomo.
Guevarra said the DOJ hopes to file the complaints within the next 30 days as they gather the necessary supporting documentary evidence.
“We know where they are but physically, we have to obtain them para mai-attach namin sa (for us to attach to the) complaint. So that takes some time also,” he said.
Gueverra said the culture of tolerance within the firm may have been among the reasons corruption festered within it.
“I hope I’m not doing an unfair statement because I know na marami rin namang mga taong matitino at gumagawa ng kanilang trabaho nang mahusay sa PhilHealth. Pero we have seen it already – the Congress, the Task Force, the many cases already filed before the Ombudsman, before the Civil Service Commission – nakikita na natin kung gaano kalawak at kung gaano na katagal ito (I know that there are many decent and hardworking employees at PhilHealth but we have seen it already– the Congress, the Task Force, the many cases already filed before the Ombudsman, before the Civil Service Commission – we saw how broad and long these concerns have been existing),” he said. (PNA)