Duterte wants PhilHealth chief Morales to resign over health issues – Guevarra

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 25) — President Rodrigo Duterte advised PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales, who recently disclosed a medical condition, to resign while the agency is being investigated for corruption and other irregularities.

“The President took note last night of Morales’ on-and-off health situation, and stated that it would be best for the latter and for PhilHealth to give up his post during these critical times for the agency,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a statement on Tuesday.

He added that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea earlier talked to Morales, who said “he would understand if he had to be replaced.”

Duterte had a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, the policy-making body in the government’s COVID-19 response, which is composed of Cabinet officials on Monday night. Duterte's taped address to the nation was aired Tuesday morning, wherein he reiterated that he will make sure all corrupt PhilHealth officials will be imprisoned.

Guevarra, a member of the IATF, heads the multi-agency task force investigating the state-run health insurance agency. The task force earlier disclosed it secured testimonies from whistleblowers who said officers from the central office and regional offices of PhilHealth have been conniving with health service providers and partner banks in their fraudulent schemes for years.

There have also been marathon hearings in Congress, which prompted the lawmakers to not lodge more funds in PhilHealth in the pandemic recovery bill that they are sending to the President.

Senate President Tito Sotto interpreted the President's statement as a "humanitarian" way of saying he's firing the PhilHealth chief. On the other hand, Senator Ping Lacson sympathized with Morales over his condition.

"In spite of his possible complicity that could make him face some serious legal problems, I still wish that he wins his bout against cancer and recovers," said Lacson in a statement.

Senators said they have gathered "more than enough" evidence to recommend the filing of complaints against several PhilHealth officials for misappropriating funds through the controversial interim reimbursement mechanism. PhilHealth has since suspended the cash advance scheme to review its implementation, but its officials have denied pocketing billions of pesos through the system.

On August 10, Morales said he filed for medical leave as he had been undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma or cancer of the lymph nodes. Two days later, he suddenly left a House hearing citing his health condition.