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Bulakbol pala! Philhealth whistleblower dropped from PNP’s rolls for being AWOL

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The former policeman alleging corruption inside the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) was dropped from the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) rolls in 2014 after failing to report for work for four months.

Resigned Philhealth anti-fraud officer Thorrsson Montes Keith was dropped from the PNP’s rolls on October 16, 2014 in compliance with the PNP Memorandum Circular 2008-005, which stated that a policeman who has been absent without official leave (AWOL) for 30 calendar days will be dropped from rolls without prior notice.

He appealed his dropping from the PNP’s rolls to the Civil Service Commission and Court of Appeals but lost.

According to court documents, Keith went AWOL four months after he was reassigned to the Regional Legal Office (RLO) of the Police Regional Office –Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (PRO-ARMM) in Parang, Maguindanao in February 2014.

Barely a week in his new post, Keith filed successive leaves of absences on 24 February to 28 February, 3 March to 5 March, 7 April to 8, 10-11 April and 19 May to 30 May 2014, which were all approved by the PNP Legal Service.

On May 25, 2014, Keith asked that he be reassigned to a place near his residence and be granted a study leave. However, both requests were denied. PNP rules stated that a legal officer may be reassigned only if he/she had already served a minimum of two years in his/her present assignment or

in the exigency of the service.

Keith’s request for study leave was also denied because he was still considered on temporary status in his present rank since he just finished the training required for his permanent appointment.

On June 9, 2014, Police Senior Inspector Jose A. Najera, Jr. of PRO-ARMM reported to the PNP Legal Service Headquarters that Keith failed to report for duty from

2 June to 6 June 2014. A Return-to-Work Order dated 11 June 2014 was served on his last known address in Rizal.

Keith appealed his reassignment on July 4, 2014 with the Office of the PNP chief,saying his reassignment to Mindanao constituted harassment and was motivated by personal grudges of senior police officials.

“Moreover, Keith claimed that he personally shouldered his travel expenses from Manila to Mindanao, thus severely affecting his finances, in effect resulting in diminution of his benefits which is tantamount to constructive dismissal,” the CA’s ruling read.

A Return-to-Work Order dated June 11, 2014 was received by Keith on the same date but he failed to comply with the directive.

In upholding Keith’s dropping from rolls, the CA said Keith’s reassignment to Mindanao was valid. The court said there’s no proof that the move constituted constructive dismissal.

“Keith’s reassignment did not result in diminution in rank, status or salary. With his reassignment, Keith remained a Police Senior Inspector and enjoyed the same benefits commensurate to his rank. By reason of his relocation, Keith was provided with a monthly subsistence allowance, quarters allowance, clothing allowance and laundry allowance. These allowances given on top of his base pay are meant to cover additional expense caused by his new posting,” the ruling read.

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