IF THERE is an intriguing piece of news that came out the other day, it was the announcement of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra that his task force assigned to investigate the billion-peso financial scandal at the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) will be filing more cases this week. And as if tickling the imagination of the public, Secretary Guevarra added that this time, the complaints will be against the “big fish.”
This leads us to wonder: Who in PhilHealth is the fish bigger than Ricardo Morales, the disgraced former general, resigned PhilHealth president and chief executive officer, and decades ago was caught by no less than President Ferdinand Marcos with his hands in the political cookie jar called a coup d’état? Earlier charged with Morales were senior vice president Renato Limsiaco, executive vice president and chief operating officers Arnel de Jesus, and senior vice president Israel Pargas. Also charged by the NBI later were Gregorio Rulloda, Imelda Trinidad de Vera-Pe, Lolita Tuliao, Gemma Sibucao and Lailani Padua.
‘… Duque is spotless clean, he’s flawless. President Duterte himself said so, just yesterday!’
The cases are mostly about the agency’s controversial Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) or the disbursement of funds to hospitals which are taking care of COVID-19 patients, and the purchase of the state insurer’s information and communications technology (ICT) equipment, said to be overpriced.
So the question persists: Who is the bigger and more important fish in PhilHealth now? We can think of no other than its chairman, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
But this cannot be, because Duque is spotless clean, he’s flawless. President Duterte himself said so, just yesterday!
Here’s the Chief Executive in a classic absolution of the health secretary: “I have read the findings and for the life of me I cannot really find a good reason to prosecute an innocent man. Mine is not really to prosecute just for the sake of being somebody (sic) being prosecuted. My job is to see to it that the rule of law — the rules for or against a person –are followed.”
Duterte, a former city prosecutor of Davao City, explained that he is trained to take into consideration if there is evidence to charge a person. In the face of suggestions — nay, demands — from senators and other concerned sectors, Duterte does not want to even fire and replace Duque with another health secretary because, as he said, he “could not simply do it without basis.”
Sen. Panfilo Lacson has been advocating the removal of Duque from the Department of Health and PhilHealth for various reasons, some of them about the lackluster performance in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, he has another reason: the Commission on Audit found out that the DOH has P2.2 billion worth of expired and expiring drugs and medicines in its warehouses, aside from medical supplies nearing obsolescence. Most of these are overpriced and overbought, said the COA.
Still, the President likes Duque and we cannot do anything about it. It is his prerogative to fire and hire people, especially his Cabinet members.
Back to the question: Who are the other important people that the DOJ is thinking of haling into court? This is something worth waiting for.