MANILA -- The head of the state insurance corporation was a "guardian of integrity" during his time in the military and could have been "overwhelmed" by the alleged corruption in PhilHealth, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Monday.
Lorenzana said he did not believe that his fellow retired military general, PhilHealth CEO and President Ricardo Morales, was involved in anomalies in the agency.
Two whistleblowers in a Senate hearing last week had accused PhilHealth officials of approving hundreds of millions worth of overpriced equipment as well as stealing some P15 billion in funds through fraudulent means.
PhilHealth data protection officer Nerissa Santiago also told senators that the insurance agency's reserve funds could be depleted by 2021.
"I cannot also reconcile the fact that Dick Morales was the guardian of integrity during his time in the service and now here... I know him personally and I don’t think he has been involved in the anomalies here," Lorenzana told ANC.
"I think he was overwhelmed with the things he found in PhilHealth. He’s managing a huge amount of money for the people, and then ito nga, may naabutan na siyang mga anomalies d’yan. Hindi rin niya siguro nakita iyong dapat niyang gawin," he added.
(There were already anomalies before he got there. Perhaps he did not see what he needed to do.)
During his military service, Morales was part of a group of officers who wanted to oust the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Morales also repeatedly called out problematic issues in the military like its construction of a resort in Boracay and the US arrest of the son of a comptroller for failing to declare $100,000.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who led the Senate hearing on PhilHealth, said last week Morales “could be both” corrupt and a bad manager.
“Either one of 2 things happened to him: either he is continuously being misled by the execom, his own people; or he could have been coopted already,” he said.
Morales has denied that a criminal syndicate is embedded in his agency.
Morales has sought the Senate's permission to skip its next hearings due to health problems.
Asked if he had anyone to recommend as Morales' replacement, Lorenzana said he did not.
"That is another field, that is parang wala sa aming expertise sa military. It’s more sa finance, managing the finances of the PhilHealth," he said.