6 PhilHealth regional heads go on leave

SIX regional vice presidents of Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) have filed leaves of absence amid the ongoing investigations into the alleged corruption in the state insurer.
The six senior PhilHealth officials in their letter to Executive Vice President Arnel de Jesus said they decided to go on leave following Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s call on all officials named in the latest corruption scandal to step down.

The PhilHealth regional vice presidents Paolo Johann Perez (Mimaropa), Valerie Anne Hollero (Western Visayas), Datu Masiding Alonto Jr. (Northern Mindanao), Khaliquzzman Macabato (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), Dennis Adre and William Chavez take their leave of absence effective August 17.

“This will give the investigation a free hand in finding out those responsible and finally bring them to account,” the officers said in their letter.

“The ongoing Senate and House of Representatives investigations into the graft and corruption in PhilHealth demand full cooperation from all its officers and staff. This is necessary to help determine and assign culpability in the most expeditious manner,” they said.

The PhilHealth officials said they had already designated their temporary replacements to ensure that the delivery of services in their respective regions will not be hampered.

The group sent a copy of the letter to Guevarra, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, the House and Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.

PhilHealth probes

Justice Secretary Guevarra yesterday that the task force probing accusations of massive corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation will be collaborating with Congress which is also investigating the controversy. 

“We’ll collaborate with the legislative committees conducting probes in aid of legislation to speed up our work and avoid unnecessary duplication, so that we may take legal action immediately,” said Guevarra. 

President Duterte had ordered the Department of Justice to form a task force to investigate allegations of multi-billion peso corruption in PhilHealth. 

The task force is composed of the DOJ, Office of the Ombudsman (OMB), the Commission on Audit (COA), the Civil Service Commission (CSC), the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), the Office of the Special Assistant to the President (OSAP), the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and the National Prosecution Service (NPS).

According to Guevarra, representatives of different agencies in the task force have agreed to fast-track the investigations and special audits on PhilHealth.

“At the same time, Task Force PhilHealth as a composite group will initiate fresh investigations on alleged anomalies that are not the subject of any ongoing investigation or audit,” he said.

Last Aug. 4, senators grilled PhilHealth senior officials over the reported corruption in the agency, particularly the allegedly overpriced Information Technology system project proposed by the management; the promotion of officials who were involved in previous controversies; the questioned reimbursements to select hospitals and health facilities; and the supposed mismanagement of the agency’s funds amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

PhilHealth anti-legal fraud officer Thorsson Montes Keith, who has quit his post, blew the whistle on his colleagues by citing the “widespread corruption in PhilHealth. ” 

The Senate Committee of the Whole has been conducting a formal inquiry into the PhilHealth fund mess while the House of Representatives is conducting a similar investigation.

With Hector Lawas