Task force seen to âweed out corruptionâ
Sen. Bong Go says President Duterte will heed public clamor to clean up agencies where anomalies thrive and hold those responsible accountable.
STAR/ File
Task force seen to ‘weed out corruption’
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - August 8, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Bong Go has asked all agencies of government to cooperate and support the efforts of the newly formed task force to weed out deeply rooted and systemic corruption in government.

“While we’re fighting COVID-19, we won’t stop until we properly address the severe sickness brought on by corruption in the entire government system,” the chair of the Senate committee on health said in Filipino before the weekend.

He reiterated that President Duterte won’t let up in his war against corruption. Moreover, the Chief Executive will heed public clamor to clean up agencies where anomalies thrive and hold those responsible accountable, Go said.

With the order forming the task force issued yesterday, Go believes it would do everything in its power to put an end to the problems at PhilHealth – in all aspects of the organization.

“With more teeth, we expect this task force to discharge its key mandates without fear or favor and with greater haste. These mandates shall include the authority to initiate thorough investigation, conduct audit and lifestyle checks, recommend suspensions, prosecute and file cases and ensure that those accountable be put in jail,” he said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III encouraged retired Brig. Gen. Augustus de Villa, who resigned as PhilHealth vice president for operations, to tell all.

While he expects De Villa to divulge everything he knew about the alleged anomalies in the government-run corporation, Sotto said the resigned officer could not be immediately considered as “witness.”

“It depends on his testimony. He must have a very good reason for resigning in the midst of the controversy,” Sotto said in a Viber message to Senate reporters.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said based on the information revealed during the first hearing of the Senate committee of the whole and previous Senate hearings, a core group could be behind the corruption in PhilHealth, who remained untouchable despite the changing of leadership.

“It’s systematic and a core group operates and was not affected despite a change in leadership. A core group is behind all the corruption. The bad thing is that when a new president and new board members will be appointed, but they can be manipulated by the core group. Nothing will change,” said Lacson.

Step down

Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte called on PhilHealth officials to immediately step down from their posts pending investigation on alleged anomalies.

He said Morales and other executives of the government-owned and controlled corporation should voluntarily resign or take a leave of absence while they face probe on corruption charges.

“It’s true that they are innocent until proven guilty. But pending investigation they should voluntarily step down first. If they don’t want to resign then they should at least take voluntary leave while full investigation is in place,” he told “The Chiefs” on One News last Thursday night.

De Villa tendered his resignation amid separate investigations by the House and the Senate. The state health insurer’s anti-fraud legal officer, Thorrsson Montes Keith, resigned earlier after spilling the beans on alleged corruption in the agency.

Villafuerte lamented how corruption marred the country’s health insurance system when it was successfully implemented in other countries.

“The concept of national health insurance system is really good as we’ve seen in other countries where it succeeded. But sad to say, those running PhilHealth are so corrupt – not just now but even in the past,” the Camarines Sur representative said.

Still, Villafuerte said Congress will support PhilHealth as an institution and assured additional funding for the agency under the proposed Bayanihan to Recover As One Act or Bayanihan 2.

While he doesn’t agree with the reported claim that PhilHealth will go bankrupt in 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the House leader said the agency needs additional funding to provide for needed medical expenses of COVID-19 patients.

Under the P162-billion Bayanihan 2 bill, P10 billion will be allocated for additional PhilHealth coverage.

Even opposition senators expressed support to the memorandum on the creation of a panel to look into massive corruption at PhilHealth.

“The President’s memorandum directing the DOJ to organize a panel to investigate PhilHealth and even seeking the assistance of constitutional commissions is in order,” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said. — Cecille Suerte Felipe

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