Duterte wants 'high-level' task force to probe alleged corruption at PhilHealth
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - August 7, 2020 - 3:02pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the creation of a “high-level” task force to probe the alleged corruption at the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, his spokesperson said Friday.

Duterte issued a one page-memorandum ordering Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to organize a panel to conduct a probe into the alleged anomalies and corruption surrounding the state insurer.

The panel will also conduct audit of the state insurer’s finances and lifestyle check on its officials and employees and would have the power to recommend to Duterte any PhilHealth official to be imposed with preventive suspension while the investigation is ongoing.

The state insurer is again embroiled in controversy as its former anti-fraud legal officer Thorrsson Keith alleged that its executives stole P15 billion from its funds through fraudulent schemes.

The DOJ may also seek the assistance of constitutional commissions and other independent bodies and even invite them to serve as members of the panel.

Roque explained in a press briefing that the panel may have members from the Office of the Ombudsman, Commission on Audit, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, Civil Service Commission, and Office of the Special Assistant to the President Undersecretary Jesus Michael Quitain.

“Within 30 days from its constitution, the panel through the Secretary of Justice, shall submit to the Office of the President its findings and recommendations, which shall include, proposed legal actions against officials and employees found responsible for acts of corruption or anomalies in PhilHealth,” the memorandum read.

Guevarra said that they have also just received the memorandum on Friday and they are in the process with coordination with the Office of the Ombudsman, which has motu propio powers or can conduct investigation on their own initiative, if it is conducting a parallel fact-finding into the issue.

“We will base our actions on such facts as may be established and such conclusions as may be reasonably inferred therefrom,” the DOJ chief added.

 ‘P15 billion stolen’

The Senate earlier this week conducted a legislative probe into the corruption allegation against PhilHealth.

Keith told the panel: "What we found at PhilHealth is the crime of the year due to the syndication of the distribution of cash advance, the interim reimbursement mechanism, and the repeated overpricing of purchased IT equipment.”

PhilHealth CEO Ricardo Morales denied the allegation that its officials “pocketed” some P15 billion. He also hit back at Keith for supposedly being in no position to discuss office matters for having only served the agency for nine months.

In a statement on Thursday, Morales said: “His [Keith’s] malicious claims not substantiated by evidence were obviously made to malign officers that rejected his ambitions for higher offices which he is not qualified for.”

Roque earlier this week said Duterte — despite earlier promises that he would fire an official over just a “whiff” of corruption — will not fire Morales as the latter still enjoys the president’s trust and confidence. The presidential spokesperson added that Duterte may make a move “after the evidence are unearthed.” — with reports from Bella Perez-Rubio

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