Palace: Embattled PhilHealth chief Morales free from Duterte pressure

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 12 2020 12:57 PM

PhilHealth President and CEO BGen. Ricardo C. Morales, AFP (Ret.), FICD at the Senate Hearing on the fraudulent medical claims in PhilHealth, in Pasay City on August 14, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Embattled Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth) president Ricardo Morales is free to act on his plans without pressure from President Rodrigo Duterte, Malacañang said Wednesday following calls to replace the state insurer chief.

A union of PhilHealth workers has called on Duterte to find a replacement for Morales, who is set to take a medical leave next week to undergo chemotherapy for lymphoma.

"Alam mo kasi si Presidente is really a very kind person. Lalong-lalo na may sakit si Morales, he will not add pressure to Gen. Morales," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in an interview on CNN Philippines.

(The President is a kind person especially that Morales is sick, he will not add pressure to Gen. Morales)

"It’s up to Morales what he wants to do but the process of investigation will continue," he added.

President Duterte has formed a multi-agency task force to investigate PhilHealth and its officials over corruption claims, that surfaced anew in legislative inquiries.

"So, as far as the fate of Gen. Morales is concerned, the President has said, ‘I believe in his integrity, I believe he is a soldier of courage and of principles.’ But he will await the results of the task force," Roque said.

"He (Duterte) wants to await the decision of the task force, that’s why he created it in the first place," he added.

Morales, along with other officials, are being investigated over their alleged involvement in anomalous PhilHealth transactions, including the procurement of overpriced computers and other materials.

The state insurance firm has been hounded by a string of allegations of irregularities for supposedly releasing millions of COVID-19 funds to medical facilities without virus patients such as dialysis and maternity care centers.

Its information and technology budget, pegged initially at P2.1 billion, was also criticized for containing allegedly overpriced items. 

Morales on Wednesday said he would like to speak to President Duterte for a "heart-to-heart" talk.

"Naghahanap ako ng pagkakataon para kami ay magka-heart-to-heart," he told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.