Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) CEO and president Ricardo Morales has resigned, Malacanang confirmed Wednesday.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque confirmed that the Office of the President has received Morales’ resignation letter, but added President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to formally act on it.
“We are still awaiting President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s further action/instruction on the matter,” Roque said in a statement to the media.
Battling allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the state health insurer, Morales earlier said he would heed the call of the President to resign.
Duterte had asked Morales to step down due to his medical condition.
A former military general, Morales earlier this month sent a medical certificate signed by his attending oncologist disclosing that he was undergoing cancer treatment.
Morales said he would submit his resignation to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Wednesday.
“I thank the President for allowing me to rest. I can now take care of my health and my family,” Morales told ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo in Filipino.
Earlier Wednesday, Malacanang said it was the “personal” decision of Morales to resign.
Morales was appointed to PhilHealth in August 2019, and has been on leave to undergo treatment for lymphoma or cancer of the lymph nodes.
Morales’ cancer disclosure came days after Duterte ordered on Aug. 7 the creation of a task force to investigate the alleged rampant corruption and irregularities within PhilHealth.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III will accept Morales’s resignation, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
Vergeire, however, said it will be up to the Office of the President “if they will accept [it] or not.”
Vergeire said Duque appreciates the work of Morales despite the accusations of corruption and controversies at PhilHealth.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, meanwhile, said the resignation of Rodolfo Del Rosario, PhilHealth’s senior vice president for legal, would make the investigation into PhilHealth easier.
Guevarra, who has been tasked by President Duterte to lead the task force in investigating the multi-billion fund mess in the PhilHealth, was given 30 days to come up with a recommendation.
Del Rosario was accused by PhilHealth board member Alejandro Cabading of being one of the members of the so-called mafia in the state health insurer.
Whistleblowers in a Senate inquiry this month had accused Morales of repeatedly approving allegedly overpriced projects and the release of funds to supposedly favored hospitals.
A purported “mafia” in PhilHealth also pocketed P15 billion in public funds, the witnesses said.
Morales, who has denied that a mafia is embedded in his agency, said he has signed a waiver to open up his bank records and agreed to a lifestyle check.
PhilHealth submits to Congress a weekly report and receipts of its interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM) or financial aid to medical facilities, he said.
“I am confident there is not an iota of evidence,” Morales said.
“I am confident that a thorough and fair investigation will clear us out,” he said.
The PhilHealth chief said he was also ready to face any criminal or administrative case. “That’s an occupational hazard,” he said.
Morales said he would go “back to anonymity” after his resignation.
The women’s party-list Gabriela said Duterte’s request for Morales to step down did no “justice to millions of Filipinos who were robbed of funds amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“His call for Morales’ resignation is in fact based on the latter’s medical condition, and not based on the widespread corruption in the agency which was unmasked in the Senate and House hearings,” the group said in a statement.
Duterte “cannot wash his hands clean over the PhilHealth mess” because he signed the Universal Healthcare Law that gave the agency more funds. He also “blessed the rollout of the P30 billion” IRM, said the party-list group.
Gabriela also expressed “extreme disgust” over a party at the PhilHealth Mimaropa office, where an almost-naked woman danced in front of an official reportedly celebrating his birthday.
Justice Secretary Guevarra declined to comment on Morales’s decision to resign.
“I’d rather lay this matter to rest. Our immediate and urgent concern at the moment is to find a worthy replacement for him,” Guevarra said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said he feels sorry for Morales, not for anything else but for his health condition.
Despite still enjoying the full trust of President Rodrigo Duterte, the latter asked Morales to quit from his job at PhilHealth due to his health.
“I hate to think that the stress brought about by the intense hearings of the Senate Committee of the Whole may have taken a toll on his already infirm health condition,” said Lacson.
In spite of his possible complicity that could make him face some serious legal problems stemming from the report of the Senate Committee of the Whole, Lacson said he still hopes that Morales wins his bout against cancer and recovers.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Morales’s resignation was the right move.
Lacson said Del Rosario’s resignation was reason to hope for some good things to come.
Lacson said the paying members and all taxpayers who contribute to the state health insurance fund surely deserve a break from the cyclical corruption involving its top executives.
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