Ombudsman suspends PhilHealth officials as probe into alleged anomalies continues

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 19) — Ombudsman Samuel Martires has ordered the suspension of 13 PhilHealth officials amid an ongoing probe into alleged corruption in the agency, according to a highly-placed source and copies of documents shared by a lawmaker.

Iloilo 1st District Representative Janette Garin on Wednesday shared images of the order signed by Martires, saying the following officials were to be put under presentive suspension for six months without pay:

Roy B. Ferrer

Celestina Ma. Jude dela Serna

Ruben John A. Basa

Dennis S. Mas

Shirley B. Domingo

Rodolfo Del Rosario Jr.

Raul Cominic Badilla

Israel Pargas

Angelito Grande

Lawrence Mijares

Leila Tuazon

Another order named the following suspended for six months:

Roy B. Ferrer

Ruben John Basa

Clementine A. Bautista

Angelito Grande

Eugenio G. Donatos II

It was not clear how Ferrer, Basa, and Grande would serve their suspensions.

The highly-placed source told CNN Philippines the order was issued for serving on Wednesday, and that it stems from an old complaint and is not COVID-19 related.

According to Section 24 of Republic Act No. 6770, the Office of the Ombudsman is allowed to issue preventive suspension without pay, "if, in the judgment of the Ombudsman or his proper deputy, the evidence of guilt is strong and (a) the charge against such officer or employee involves dishonesty, oppression or gross misconduct, or gross neglect in the performance of duty; or (b) the charge would warrant removal from the service; or (c) the respondent's continued stay in office may prejudice the just, fair and independent disposition of the case filed against him."

Meanwhile, Senator Migz Zubiri welcomed the news on the suspension.

In a message to reporters, he said, "That is great news! A small victory in our fight against the corruption in the Government’s Health Insurance agency. I totally laud the Ombudsman on this."

Zubiri filed a resolution on Wednesday asking the Office of the President to preventively suspend PhilHealth's top management and those involved in alleged corruption within the agency.

PhilHealth is under intense scrutiny from lawmakers after key whistleblower Thorrsson Montes Keith, former anti-fraud legal officer of PhilHealth, accused key officials of stealing P15 billion from the agency using different fraudulent schemes. The amount covers alleged unauthorized release of interim reimbursement mechanisms, funds allocated for "fortuitous events" such as the pandemic, to hospitals that have not yet recorded COVID-19 cases.