By Macon Araneta 

After wrapping up its inquiry in the widespread corruption at PhilHealth, described by Sen. Panfilo Lacson as “mafia”, senators recommended the filing of charges against PhilHealth President and CEO Gen. Ricardo Morales (ret.) and other top officials of the state insurer.

To be charged along with Morales, Lacson said, are Fund Management Sector Senior Vice-president Renato Limsiaco Jr., SVP and CIO Jovita Aragona and Senior ICT Officer Calixto Gabuya.

Lacson said among  the charges that the Senate Committee of the Whole recommended to be filed against PhilHealth officials are malversation, violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, violation of the National Internal Revenue Code and perjury. 

“If you can remember,  Gen. Morales admitted that when I asked who authorized and approved the release of funds, he said ‘I’,” said Lacson. 

He said there’s anti-graft RA 3019 Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act because the funds came from the corporate operating budget and the funds were government money.

“SP Sotto will sponsor. He will report out on the floor. They’re deliberating on the report and I hope it will be finished this weekend, of course,  the context is subject to his approval,” also said Lacson.

“I believe I am not alone in this kind of thinking based on a hearing we conducted. It’s not only now but also last April, it seemed that those manipulating and overpricing, including those operating PhilHealth funds, were those in the (PhilHealth) Execomm,” said Lacson.

According to Lacson, it is the Execomm in the Central Office that prepares the master list of healthcare institutions that would be first to receive funds under the controversial interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM).

Resigned PhilHealth anti-fraud officer Thorsson Montes Keith testified  in the Senate that the PhilHealth “mafia,” composed of the executive committee, stole some PHP15 billion through fraudulent schemes, including those involving the IRM.

However, PhilHealth, strongly denied the allegations of Keith and insisted that he merely failed to get a promotion on the job.

Meanwhile, Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go sought the help of the National Bureau of Investigation  (NBI) to help protect PhilHealth documents and preserve integrity of the investigation.

He also told the NBI and the other authorities to arrest those attempting to hide or destroy evidence.

Upon receiving reports of alleged tampering and destruction of documents in several PhilHealth regional offices, Go immediately directed  the NBI to act on the matter to help protect the integrity of the government’s investigation into systemic and systematic corruption within the agency. 

“The NBI said that they will also conduct an inventory of all cases being handled by PhilHealth regional legal offices in order to secure documents including affidavits and hospital records. They will also secure possible witnesses,” Go said based on his discussions with Eric Distor, NBI officer-in-charge.