Ombudsman suspends Philhealth top execs amid ongoing probe

Ombudsman Samuel Martires has suspended for 6 months a total of 13 officials, including top executives, of the embattled Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) which is now being investigated for corruption.

President and CEO Ricardo Morales was not among those who were suspended. A whistleblower told Senate hearings that Morales is a "coddler or may have become the new leader of syndicate in PhilHealth" for allowing the implementation of Interim Reimbursment Mechanism or IRM, which is meant to disburse quick relief to medical facilities in times of disasters. Morales has denied the accusation.

The highest officials suspended are Dennis Mas, Senior Vice President (SVP) for Management Services Sector; Israel Pargas, SVP for health finance and policy sector; Shirley Domingo, Vice President for Corporate Affairs Group and Rodolfo Del Rosario, legal sector chief. 

In one order, Martires suspended the following for 6 months without pay:

  • Roy Ferrer
  • Celestina Ma Jude dela Serna
  • Ruben John Basa
  • Dennis Mas
  • Shirley Domingo
  • Rodolfo Del Rosario
  • Raul Dominic Badilla
  • Israel Pargas
  • Angelito Grande
  • Lawrence Mijares
  • Leila Tuazon

And in a separate order, Martires suspended the following for 6 months:

  • Roy Ferrer
  • Ruben John Basa
  • Clementine Bautista
  • Angelito Grande
  • Eugenio Donatos II

It was not immediately clear if Ferrer, Basa, and Grande would serve their two 6-month suspensions simultaneously.

The Office of the Ombudsman is "cooperating" with President Rodrigo Duterte's designated task force which is led by the Department of Justice.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra had earlier said "it was agreed that any action by the agencies regarding PhilHealth will be coordinated through the Task Force and any action towards the prosecution of PhilHealth officers and employees and their cohorts will be made through the Task Force and with the endorsement of the Secretary of Justice."

It was also not clear whether Martires got the endorsement of Guevarra for his suspensions. But an informed source told Rappler the order was on its way to being served Wednesday, August 19.

Accusations

Philhealth whistleblower, resigned anti-fraud legal officer Thorsson Montes Keith, accused Del Rosario of sitting on fraud investigations "but did nothing and sat on the case for more than a year."

Keith also said Del Rosario "had plenty of travels" to Balanga, Bataan in the same time period where more than P9 million in PhilHealth benefit claims meant for hospitals in the Cagayan Valley Region was allegedly diverted to a rural bank in Bataan in May 2019.

Del Rosario has disputed Keith's allegations.

Del Rosario was among the officials who cited health reasons for skipping a congressional hearing. Later, he would sign a bank secrecy waiver on the urging of lawmakers.

Mas and Domingo also signed bank secrecy waivers. – Rappler.com/with reports from Bonz Magsambol

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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