Palace: ‘No turning back’ in PhilHealth corruption probe

Published August 9, 2020, 3:17 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

There is “no turning back” as the government moved to start a month-long investigation into the corruption allegations besetting the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), Malacañang said Sunday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said a task force has been organized to conduct the investigation into the anomalies in PhilHealth upon the orders of President Duterte. The panel’s findings and recommendations must be submitted to the President in 30 days.

The Department of Justice-led investigation will push ahead even as two PhilHealth top officials reportedly intend to skip the upcoming Senate hearing on the alleged anomalies at the state health corporation.

“We leave it to the Senate, a separate co-equal branch, to comment on reports that officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) may skip their hearing, scheduled on August 11, for medical / health reasons,” Roque said.

“As far as the Executive is concerned, the Task Force organized by the Department of Justice, upon the instruction of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, will proceed in its mandate to investigate on the various allegations of corruption in PhilHealth,” he said.

Roque said the investigating panel is also authorized to audit PhilHealth finances and conduct lifestyle checks on its officials and employees. If warranted, the panel can also recommend the preventive suspension on any official to ensure that the probe of the Task Force would be unhampered.

“There is no turning back as we expect the Task Force to submit its findings and recommendations to the Office of the President within thirty (30) days after its constitution as directed by the Chief Executive,” Roque said.

PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Ricardo Morales recently informed the Senate that his doctor has advised him to take a leave while undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma.

Another PhilHealth official Arnel de Jesus will also be unable to attend the Senate inquiry due to a medical emergency. De Jesus serves as PhilHealth executive vice president and CEO.

In Friday’s televised briefing, Roque said the President has become “exasperated” with the corruption allegations in PhilHealth. He said the President has zero tolerance for corruption, warning that the days of erring officials are numbered.

“This is not an ordinary investigation. They will in fact exercise the power of preventive suspension and lifestyle check. So, ang mensahe po sa mga buwaya ng PhilHealth, ‘Tapos na po ang maliligayang araw ninyo diyan. Goodbye (The message to the corrupt in PhilHealth is your happy days are over. Goodbye),” he said.

Roque said PhilHealth officials will be given a chance to air their side during the investigation. “Their positions will be heard and all the evidence will be processed by this body,” he added.

PhilHealth, established in 1995, has recently been hounded by allegations of overpriced information technology equipment, overpayments of medical claims, and other fraudulent practices.

Former PhilHealth anti-fraud officer Thorsson Montes Keith had earlier claimed that around P15 billion of the agency’s funds have been pocketed by alleged corrupt officials.