Guevarra hopes key PhilHealth officials under probe would go on leave
This undated photo shows Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman
Guevarra hopes key PhilHealth officials under probe would go on leave
Kristine Joy Patag ( - August 10, 2020 - 4:23pm

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Monday that he hopes Philippine Health Insurance (PhilHealth) Corp. executives whose offices are under direct investigation over the latest corruption controversy hounding the agency would go on leave.

Members of the “Task Force PhilHealth” will convene on Monday to determine issues related to the state insurer that they can finish within the deadline set by President Rodrigo Duterte, Guevarra said told reporters.

As of Monday, the task force has yet to identify officials that they would recommended for suspension or to go on leave, except those already under the list of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, the DOJ chief said. He added that he hopes “they would voluntarily go on leave while their agency is under intense investigation.”

In particular, Guevarra said he would like those whose operations are currently under investigation or audit to go on leave. “If they are not hiding anything, they can take a leave of absence to enable the investigators/auditors to freely complete their inquiry or examination,” he also said.

The DOJ chief also stressed that the National Privacy Commission had said that the Data Privacy Act may not be used to hinder government investigations.

On Monday morning, PhilHealth CEO and President Ricardo Morales said he notified his superiors of his intent to go on medical leave. This was after it was revealed that Morales is undergoing treatment for cancer of the lymph nodes. 

In the wake of another corruption controversy surrounding the state insurer, Duterte ordered on Friday the creation of a high-level task force to probe PhilHealth and its regional offices. This time, the executives of the state insurer are accused of “pocketing” some P15 billion from the agency’s funds through fraudulent schemes—a claim that Morales denied.

The task force will have members from the Office of the Ombudsman, Civil Service Commission, Commission on Audit, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission and Office of the Special Assistant to the President.

The PACC on August 2 said that it was ready to submit a report on the findings of its own investigation into PhilHealth's system to Duterte. PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica during a Laging Handa briefing said the PACC identified at least 30 individuals engaged in corrupt activities.

Task force to identify specific probes

Guevarra also said that following Duterte’s memorandum, he would personally oversee the operation of the task force. DOJ undersecretaries and assistant secretaries, as well as a team of the department’s lawyers will also act as secretariat.

“The members of the task force are presently identifying which specific investigations or audits, other than on the WellMed issue, could be reasonably accomplished within the limited period given to the task force,” Guevarra said.

Duterte gave the Guevarra, head of the panel, 30 days to submit to his office findings and recommendations, including proposed legal actions against PhilHealth officials involved in corruption.

The DOJ chief was referring to the case filed over the alleged processing of WellMed Dialysis and Laboratory Center fraudulent claims for dialysis treatments for patients who had already died.

Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento said last week that state prosecutors have yet to receive the court’s notice of hearing for their presentation of evidence. “Before the community quarantine, pre-trial hearing was conducted,” he added. — with reports from Bella Perez-Rubio

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 19, 2020 - 9:17pm

The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. is facing scrutiny anew over more allegations of corruption.

It was in the headlines last year because of an alleged scam involving payments to WellMed Dialysis Center for treatments charged for a patient who had already died.

Follow this thread for updates.

October 19, 2020 - 9:17pm

President Rodrigo Duterte says the government will compensate the Philippine Red Cross for COVID-19 tests.

The Red Cross recently halted conducting tests due to the P930 million debt of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation for the conduct of COVID-19 tests for the government.

"I don't think Sen. (Richard) Gordon would have in his mind to stop. What I'm trying to say is we will pay," Duterte says in a recorded address aired Monday night.

October 15, 2020 - 3:07pm

The Philippine Red Cross will stop conducting COVID-19 tests chargeable to PhilHealth due to the state insurer's outstanding balance.

PRC says it will no longer receive specimens for testing of OFWs, those arriving in airports and seaports, individuals through mega swabbing facilities, frontline health and government workers, and others included in the expanded testing guidelines of the DOH.

"The PRC does not have unlimited resources to replenish the testing kits for its laboratories unless PhilHealth, its major creditor, settles its lawful obligations to the PRC," PRC says in a statement dated October 14.

September 28, 2020 - 12:25pm

Forty names tagged in the Philhealth controversy are under investigation, says Greco Belgica, chief of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission.

Belgica says at a Malacanang press briefing that the 40 names include those of regional officials, executives and directors of the board.

"We will be filing cases (before) the Ombudsman," Belgica says. (Report by The STAR/Alexis Romero)

September 14, 2020 - 11:10pm

Task Force PhilHealth has recommended complaints against former PhilHealth CEO Ricardo Morales, Senior Vice President Jovita Aragona, officer-in-charge Calixto Gabuya Jr. over alleged corruption at the state insurer related to overpriced ICT systems and other issues.

President Rodrigo Duterte announced the recommendations at a meeting of the IATF, part of which was televised.

September 1, 2020 - 4:01pm

Senate President Tito Sotto reports the findings of the Senate Committee of the Whole following its investigation into alleged anomalies at PhilHealth.

Sotto admits that he is taking the task of reporting the Senate panel's findings with some reluctance in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that "we should not change horses mid-stream."

"It is suggested that we must let the pandemic first subside, before advocating for changes, in the areas of leadership, organization, systems and operations of PhilHealth," Sotto says.

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