Sotto ‘dumbfounded’ Duque, Del Rosario not tagged in DOJ probe into PhilHealth

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he was “dumbfounded” that the Department of Justice (DOJ) spared Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and former PhilHealth legal chief Rodolfo del Rosario Jr in the preliminary results of its probe into alleged corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation.

“No Duque? No Del Rosario? I’m dumbfounded! Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code is very clear. Perhaps the Ombudsman would have a better perspective of the anomalies,” Sotto said in a message to reporters on Tuesday, September 15.

Following an investigation of reported anomalies in the state health insurer, the DOJ on Tuesday recommended criminal complaints against the following PhilHealth officials:

  • former president and CEO Ricardo Morales;
  • executive vice president and COO Arnel de Jesus;
  • senior vice president for information technology Jovita Aragona;
  • senior vice president for fund management Renato Limsiaco Jr;
  • senior vice president for health finance policy Israel Pargas;
  • information technology officer-in-charge Calixto Gabuya Jr; and
  • division chief Bobby Crisostomo.

The DOJ merely “admonished” Duque, who is the chairperson of the PhilHealth board of directors.

The Senate earlier recommended criminal complaints against several PhilHealth officials including Duque and Del Rosario.

The Senate committee of the whole, led by Sotto, conducted a legislative investigation of the PhilHealth mess in August. It released its findings on September 1, which the Senate officially adopted on September 7.

Sotto insisted on Duque’s culpability under the Revised Penal Code, which states that mere abandonment or negligence of officials makes them as guilty as those who actively embezzled public funds under their watch.

Meanwhile, the Senate accused Del Rosario of failure to act upon fraud and other cases pending at his office as PhilHealth’s legal chief.

Sotto had pushed for the swift adoption of the Senate report on the PhilHealth mess in order to aid the DOJ’s separate investigation, which was expected to ultimately result in prosecutions.

Reacting to Sotto’s statement, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said, “Our report is about our initial findings only. Further investigations will be conducted and more people may be charged."

The DOJ task force running the investigation said the PhilHealth officials were generally faulted for their negligence that allowed for frauds and other anomalies that bled the state insurer billions of pesos.

The Office of the Ombudsman is conducting a separate investigation of the PhilHealth anomalies.

In Sotto’s view, Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code makes the top officials of an agency accountable for anomalies that take place because of their negligence. However, he also expressed doubts about Duque’s claim that he had no knowledge of the irregularities unearthed during the investigations. –

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.