‘Where’s the accountability?’ Morales hit for resignation amid PhilHealth corruption mess

August 27, 2020 - 7:07 PM
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Protest against PhilHealth (Philstar/Michael Varcas)

Some Filipinos expressed disappointment over the embattled Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) president Ricardo Morales‘ resignation and criticized him for supposed lack of “accountability.”

Morales’ resignation came after President Rodrigo Duterte‘s hint to dismiss him amid the unresolved corruption issues hounding the state insurer.

The former PhilHealth head had been on medical leave since early August for his ongoing chemotherapy for lymphoma, cancer of the lymph nodes.

PhilHealth had faced multiple serious problems in the past. This time, its executives are in hot water over allegedly stealing P15 billion from the agency, questionable budget and mismanagement of funds for the novel coronavirus pandemic.

A change in treatment

Late July, the Palace stated that Duterte continues to trust Morales despite allegations of his involvement in widespread corruption and a purported “mafia.”

Duterte even wished Morales a speedy recovery after the latter filed his medical leave and informed the Senate Committee of the Whole of his illness.

This stance appeared to have shifted during a meeting on Monday night, August 24. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra bared that the chief executive suggested that it would be better for Morales to resign given his health condition.

Guevarra led the task force investigating the PhilHealth anomalies.

“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,” Guevarra told reporters in a text message.

During his national address, Duterte also vowed to rid PhilHealth of individuals involved in the scandal during the rest of his presidency.

“Iyong PhilHealth ang dapat imbestigahan at dapat i-prosecute lahat at dapat ikulong. Kung iyan na lang ang trabaho ko sa maiwan ko sa tat — dalawang taon, iyan na rin ang gagawain ko,” he said.

When reporters sought for his comment, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that Duterte’s suggestion to Morales might be his “humanitarian way” of letting Morales go.

“It’s a humanitarian way of saying: ‘You’re fired,'” Sotto said.

Following these talks, in a statement on Wednesday, August 26, presidential spokesman Harry Roque announced that the Office of the President had received Morales’ resignation letter.

“We are still awaiting President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s further action [or] instruction on the matter,” Roque said.

Sotto later praised Morales for heeding Duterte’s call for him to step down.

However, he clarified that the investigation of the accusations against him persists.

“No sacred cows!” Sotto told reports on the same day.

Calls for charges, not resignation

PhilHealth’s various irregularities and problems both internal and external continued to draw outrage from the public, particularly from Filipinos who are paying their regular dues to the agency.

Some Filipinos online demanded accountability from Morales and the rest of the officers, not just mere resignation.

Screenshot by Interaksyon

YouTuber-singer Janina Vela questioned why he was even allowed to file a resignation letter.

“Ricardo Morales was appointed Pres/CEO by Duterte for the sole purpose to rid PhilHealth of corruption. Billions of the Filipino’s money stolen under his watch and he’s suddenly allowed to file his resignation for health reasons? Where’s the accountability?”  Vela wrote.

Others noted on Sotto’s remarks of “humanitarian way” of resigning despite the serious accusations Morales is involved in.

Screenshot by Interaksyon

One of PhilHealth’s officials previously told senators that it’s possible for PhilHealth to collapse or shut down by 2022 should the pandemic goes on.

Sen. Franklin Drilon inquired on the “actuarial life” of the state insurer.

“By next year po, wala na po tayong reserve funds. So one year lang po ang ating actuarial life,””Nerrisa Santiago, acting vice president of PhilHealth said.