Senate leaders were disappointed that the task force investigating the corruption claims in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) went easy on Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

Senate Hall - Senate leaders aghast at TF recommendation on Duque regarding PhilHealth corruption claims
(MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he was “dumbfounded” that Duque was spared from any liabilities over the alleged irregularities in the state health insurer as recommended by the Department of Justice-led Task Force PhilHealth.

“No Duque? No Del Rosario? I’m dumbfounded! Article 217 of the RPC [Revised Penal Code] is very clear,” Sotto said in a message to reporters Tuesday when asked for comment.

The Senate chief, who led the chamber’s investigation on the controversies in the PhilHealth last month, has maintained that Duque, as the ex-officio chairman of the corporation’s Board of Directors, should be held accountable for the questionable releases of the agency to some health care facilities under the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM).

The Board governs policies and programs of the PhilHealth. For this reason, the Senate recommended the filing of malversation and graft charges against Duque. Senators also called for charges against PhilHealth senior vice president for Legal Sector Atty. Rodolfo Del Rosario for neglect of duty for failing to act on the cases filed before the state insurer.

The Task Force, on the other hand, reportedly recommended that Duque and members of the board only be “strongly admonish[ed] and remind[ed] of the grave consequences of their action and inaction” over the PhilHealth’s funds and to the government and the people. Del Rosario was also spared in the task force’s report.

“Perhaps the Ombudsman would have a better perspective of the anomalies,” Sotto said.

“Mabuti na lang, the Ombudsman does not rely its investigations on task forces. They have motu propio powers,” he added.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said he welcomes the recommendation of the high-level task force to file criminal and administrative charges against PhilHealth officials, including ex-president and chief executive officer Ricardo Morales, but said the DOJ report should also have included Duque.

While saying he has yet to fully read the task force’s recommendation, Recto opined that the DOJ report, like the Senate, failed to establish the accountability of the members of the PhilHealth board over the mess.

“To me, what is lacking in both Senate and in the DOJ report…is the accountablity of the members of the board itself. Remember it is the board ang nagbabantay dapat ng management ng PhilHealth (who should be guarding the PhilHealth). If the board did its job then there should be no problem,” REcto said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

“Bakit pinabayaan ng board ang PhilHealth (Why did the Board abandon PhilHealth)? Considering that PhilHealth is one of the most important GFI (government financial institution) and GOCC (government owned and controlled corporation) that we have,” he added, pointing out that Cabinet secretaries and experts in finance, health, social services were designated by law to ensure the that the national health insurance funds are properly spent.

Recto agreed with Sotto that Duque could be held liable under criminal laws for admitting that he had no idea that there were irregularities in the PhilHealth.

“That is correct, at the very least that should have been included in the DOJ report,” he said.

Still, he said DOJ remains a “recommendatory body” and the Ombudsman will have the final say on the charges to be filed against responsible officials.

“More investigation should be done by appropriate govt agencies, in this case, it should be the Ombudsman…It is the Ombudsman who will be in the final investigation, and I trust the Ombudsman will do its job properly,” he added.

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