Palace: PhilHealth investigation to continue 'no matter what'
This undated file photo shows a PhilHealth assistance window
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Palace: PhilHealth investigation to continue 'no matter what'
Alexis Romero ( - August 9, 2020 - 5:01pm

MANILA, Philippines — The executive department's probe into alleged anomalies at the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) would continue "no matter what," Malacañang said Sunday, after it was reported that two key officials of the state insurer may skip the Senate hearing on the matter due to health issues.

PhilHealth is hounded by allegations of irregularities including the supposed pocketing of some P15 billion by a "syndicate," the alleged overpricing of IT equipment and coronavirus test kits, and the purported padding of hospital claims to the state-run insurer.

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the creation of a multi-agency task force that would look into the allegations and, if necessary, slap a preventive suspension on officials tied to the anomalies.

PhilHealth officials have expressed readiness to face the investigations, saying they have nothing to hide.

"Task force created by (President Duterte) to proceed with investigation, impose possible preventive suspensions... no matter what," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a text message Sunday.

"There is no turning back as we expect the Task Force to submit its findings and recommendations to the Office of the President within 30 days after its constitution as directed by the chief executive," he said in a separate statement.

The Senate has started its inquiry on the issue and is scheduled to conduct its next hearing on Tuesday.

However, PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales and PhilHealth executive vice president and chief operating officer Arnel de Jesus may skip the hearing because of their health. Morales has been advised by his doctor to take a leave of absence to undergo chemotherapy for lymphoma while de Jesus has informed the Senate that he has an "unforeseen medical emergency.”

"We leave it to the Senate, a separate co-equal branch, to comment on reports that officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation may skip their hearing, scheduled on August 11, for medical [or] 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 the various allegations of corruption in PhilHealth," he added.

Roque said the task force would audit PhilHealth finances, conduct lifestyle checks on its officials and employees, and if necessary, recommend the preventive suspension of any official to ensure that the probe would be unhampered.

Morales has rejected calls for him to resign, saying he would act like a "good soldier" as long as he is needed in PhilHealth.

The embattled PhilHealth chief has also claimed that stamping out a deeply rooted fraud requires a "special and sustained effort." Last week, Roque said Duterte won't dismiss Morales unless there is proof linking him to anomalies.

"That’s why I think after the evidence (is) unearthed, the president will move and do the correct thing. He knows that people are counting on PhilHealth at the time of a pandemic and we cannot afford the citizenry to lose their faith and trust in the agency that is most relevant to them when there is a threat of disease,"  Roque said in a television interview last Wednesday.

 "I'm confident that the president will be up to the challenge."

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