Ombudsman suspends 8 PhilHealth execs over IRM mess

Lian Buan
This is the latest in a string of preventive suspension orders issued by Ombudsman Samuel Martires following President Duterte's directive to the DOJ to probe corruption in government

Ombudsman Samuel Martires has ordered the 6-month preventive suspension without pay of 8 Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) executives facing a graft complaint over the alleged misappropriation of P2 billion in Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) funds.

Those covered by the order signed on Wednesday, October 28, are Executive Vice President Arnel de Jesus, Senior Vice President Renato Limsiaco, SVP Israel Francis Pargas, Area VP Gregorio Rulloda, NCR Benefits Head Dr Imelda Trinidad de Vera, NCR manager Lolita Tuliao, Fiscal Examiner Gemma Sibucao, and Fiscal Controller Lailani Padua.

The PhilHealth officials are included in the complaint filed by the Department of Justice-National Burrau of Investigation (DOJ-NBI) task force that is looking into the alleged widespread corruption in PhilHealth.

Resigned CEO Ricardo Morales was the 9th official in the complaint but because he has already resigned, he cannot be preventively suspended.

Preventive suspension is an Ombudsman power to preserve evidence and avoid undue influence from within the agency while it investigates. It doesn’t equate to administrative liability. Morales is still included in the investigation for both administrative and criminal liability.

The DOJ-NBI task force earlier said it was not yet done filing complaints, and that more names might be included in succeeding filings.

This is the latest in a string of preventive suspension orders of Martires, who also issued the same against Department of Health (DOH) officials for the delay in releasing benefit to frontliners, and against Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials over their involvement in the so-called pastillas scam.

President Rodrigo Duterte assigned the PhilHealth probe to DOJ and just recently, gave Justice Secretary Menardo Gevarra marching orders to probe corruption “in the entire government,” which oversteps into the constitutional mandate of the Office of the Ombudsman.

The DOJ-NBI findings will still have to brought over to the Office of the Ombudsman for prosecution, just as what happened in the IRM complaint.

The DOJ-NBI task force found that Morales and the 8 officials designed a scheme to favor chosen hospitals and clinics and released to them IRM funds even without proper authority.

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 or tweet @lianbuan.