Duterte won't fire PhilHealth's Morales without proof of corruption: Palace

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 05 2020 02:00 PM | Updated as of Aug 05 2020 08:12 PM

PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales attends a Senate hearing on the fraudulent medical claims in PhilHealth, in Pasay City on Aug. 14, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte will not fire Ricardo Morales as head of the state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp unless there is evidence of corruption against the retired military general.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate are investigating PhilHealth over alleged irregularities following a string of corruption claims against officials of the state insurer. 

The Palace is also conducting its own investigation into the issue.

"The President has said that he will not fire him unless there’s evidence and I think the Senate now is in the process of documenting this evidence," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in an interview on CNN Philippines.

Roque said he was informed by the President's close aide Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go that the chief executive continues to trust Morales.

"I think after the evidence are unearthed, the President will move and do the correct thing," Roque said.

"He knows that people are counting on PhilHealth at the time of a pandemic and we cannot afford the citizenry to lose their faith and trust in the agency that is most relevant to them when there is a threat of disease," he added.

FAILURE?

Morales admitted to senators on Tuesday that his efforts to weed out corruption in PhilHealth were not enough.

"Hindi po sapat ang aking ginagawa...Inaamin ko ho, kulang ako sa paghanap ng mga gumagawa ng katiwalian. Marami pa rin sila," he said during a Senate inquiry.

(I'm not doing enough...I admit that I lack in weeding out corrupt officials. There are still many of them.)

Resigned PhilHealth anti-fraud officer Thorrson Montes Keith on Tuesday alleged that some officials of the state insurer pocketed around P15 billion in funds through various schemes. 

He also claimed that several items for the agency's IT department were overpriced by the millions.

Roque, who previously said Morales failed to rid PhilHealth of corruption, said it was "worrisome" that the former military official did not present plans on how he would address the problem.

"What worried me was he admitted that corruption was still rampant and I did not hear steps that he has taken to remove corruption in the agency – that to me, is the most worrisome," Roque said.

It can be recalled that in letting Morales lead PhilHealth, Duterte said in July last year that he wanted the retired military officer to rid the agency of corruption. 

"These culprits will have their day of reckoning in court. I hope it happens during the last 3 years of my term," Duterte had said.

Morales took over leadership of PhilHealth at a time when the firm was being heavily criticized over reports of alleged misuse of state health insurance funds for bogus treatments such as the "ghost" dialysis scam.

"When he (Morales) was placed there by the President to replace a previous board and a previous president because of the WellMed scam, our expectation is he will take concrete steps to rid the agency of corruption," Roque said.

"Any president in PhilHealth should be able to say, I know what to do with corruption in the agency and I will do it," he added.

Morales is pushing to overhaul the agency's current information system to curb fraudulent activities.