By Nancy Carvajal
The Department of Justice has found no legal infirmities in the memorandum of agreement between the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation and the Philippine Red Cross in April Cross in April 24, as the state provider of COVID-19 swab tests for its members, documents bared.
“It is this Department’s opinion that except on the matter of the Advance Cash Payment of One hundred million pesos (P1,000,000.00) which we will also discuss below, the MOA between PHICH and PRC does not suffer from any legal infirmities that will render it invalid,’’ according to a five –page reply of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to Philhealth, a copy of which was obtained by Politiko_Ph.
The DOJ opinion is contrary to the legal stance of Philhealth’s own lawyers who questioned the legality of the MOA and recommended to the state insurer President and Chief Operating Officer Dante Gierran to suspend payments to PRC.
In a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer- Philhealth legal counsel Alfredo Pineda said the MOA that former Philhealth head Ricardo Morales signed with PRC on Fhad no legal basis and provided preferential treatment to the humanitarian organization headed by Sen. Richard Gordon.
Gierran had sought the DOJ opinion on the legality of the MOA and whether the agreement should have been the subject to the rules of the Government Procurement Act (GPA) and other relevant laws and to whether the state –run insurance firm is legally obligated to immediately pay the PRC billings.
Pineda in the report to Gierran, the legal counsel recommended for the suspension of the implementation of the MOA and hold in abeyance any and all further payments and disbursement of corporate public funds relative to the MOA.
Gordon as PRC head had publicly announced that Philhealth owed the non-profit organization more than P1 billion pesos as payment for the COVID-19 swab tests performed to its members, mostly overseas Filipino workers.
The senator also had repeatedly said that PRC will stop performing swab tests charged to Philhealth, if the state –run insurance firm will not pay previous tests.
Based on news reports Surigao del Norte Rep. Ace Barbers accused PRC of “ blackmailing the government by stopping swab tests over unpaid bill which according to Barbers was based on an illegal contract.
The DOJ did not provide an opinion whether Philhealth is required to immediately pay PRC citing lack of information to form an opinion, but said the P100 million advance payment to PRC by Philhealth is legal.
Under the rules of the Government Auditing Code advance payment for services not yet rendered or supplies not yet delivered is prohibited , except with the prior approval of the President.
“Nonetheless, even if the PHIC failed to get such approval prior to remitting the amount to the pRC, we are on the opinion that such may still be obtained post facto, as there is no provision in the said law that makes the transaction invalid, solely on the account of a failure to obtain the President’s prior approval.