PhilHealth execs face poll charges
By Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The president and chief operating officer of Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and three other top executives of the state-run firm face possible jail terms after violating an election law, according to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
The Comelec’s law department, citing a Supreme Court decision, ruled the PhilHealth officials violated the Omnibus Election Code with the recent reshuffle of 26 agency officials.
If the Comelec en banc affirms the law department’s decision, the following PhilHealth officials could face jail terms of one to six years and disqualification from public office: Jesus Reynaldo “Rey” Aquino, president and CEO; Melinda Mercado, executive vice president; Tito Mendiola, senior vice president for operations; and Ruben John Basa, group vice president for corporate affairs.
Documents furnished the Inquirer by the Department of Health and PhilHealth insiders showed the 26 officials were reshuffled on Jan. 12, or two days after the prohibition on job transfers took effect.
The personnel movements were also implemented without a written authority from the Comelec, the documents showed.
Comelec lawyers Ferdinand Rafanan, Josllyn Demesa and Maria Norina Tangaro-Casingal informed Aquino in a letter that “any movement of any officer or employee in the civil service is covered by the prohibition.”
They, however, noted that their opinion was “not binding” and “subject to the ruling of the Comelec en banc on the matter.”
Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, also PhilHealth chair, told the Inquirer the health agency would abide by the en banc’s decision.
Cabral said the case “happened before my time.”
Cabral took over as health secretary on Jan. 15, a week after Aquino issued the PhilHealth memorandum ordering the transfer of the 26 executives.
But Cabral and four other members of the PhilHealth board had earlier signed Resolution 1365 “expressing full trust and confidence in the PhilHealth president’s authority to re-assign PhilHealth officers” despite five restraining orders and four injunctions issued by various regional trial courts against the transfers.
The Jan. 28 resolution also called for “appropriate administrative disciplinary actions” against PhilHealth personnel who questioned the reshuffle.
Aside from Cabral, the other signatories to the resolution were Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Social Welfare Secretary Celia Yangco, former Health Secretary and Sen. Juan Flavier, and physicians Ponciano Perez and Jack Arroyo Jr.
Three other PhilHealth board members—Labor Secretary Marianito Roque, Government Service Insurance System president and general manager Winston Garcia and Social Security System president and CEO Romulo Neri–did not sign the resolution.
At least nine of the reshuffled PhilHealth executives have filed charges against Aquino and his three subordinates for alleged violation of Comelec Resolution No. 8737.