DOJ pressing PhilHealth probe

August 09, 2020

THE investigation by a task force which was created upon orders of President Duterte to investigate accusations of massive corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) will proceed "with or without" the officials involved in the controversy. 

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra made the comment over the weekend when his take was sought on the supposed medical conditions of PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales and executive vice president and chief operating officer Arnel de Jesus, and their possible absence in legislative and Justice Department inquiries. 

"Not at all. We'll convene next week and map out our overall strategy. I have one in mind already, but it’s premature to disclose," Guevarra said. 

Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete echoed his boss' statement that Task Force PhilHealth's investigators will base their findings on documents and other pieces of evidence.

Just the other day, Morales and de Jesus in separate letters notified the Senate of their health concerns, days before the legislative hearing on corruption issues within the agency resumes.

Morales on Friday sent a medical certificate to the Senate Committee of the Whole informing it that he was undergoing treatment for lymphoma, cancer of the lymph nodes, and has been advised by his doctors to take a leave of absence. 

Morales disclosed that he has been undergoing chemotherapy since February. He said he asked the Senate if he could join its probe virtually, via Zoom, as his “immune system is compromised because of the chemo.”

For his part, de Jesus told Senate President Tito Sotto III that he would not be able participate in the next Senate inquiry scheduled for Tuesday due to an “unforeseen medical emergency.”

His medical certificate showed that de Jesus has been confined in a private hospital since August 5 after being diagnosed with a cardiovascular diseases. He is in need of a surgery.

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

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

The Senate Committee of the Whole has been conducting a formal inquiry into the PhilHealth fund mess. 

During the almost 10-hour-long inquiry recently, senators questioned PhilHealth officials over the following issues:

*a proposed P2.1-billion information technology project, which even state auditors had earlier flagged as overpriced

*a supposedly questionable release of funds under the corporation’s Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM)

*the alleged manipulation of the corporation’s financial status.

Financial checkup

A House leader on Sunday said PhilHealth must undergo “thorough financial checkup” and “cleansing” before the government considers any sort of bailout for the troubled state insurer.

“PhilHealth should come clean about its current financial standing and
must be willing to go through a cleansing process to rid the agency of corrupt officials and employees prior to any government bailout,” House Deputy Majority Leader and Bagong Henerasyon (BH) party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera said.

Herrera made the statement after Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced that the government was ready to provide funding to ensure the survival of PhilHealth, which is tasked with implementing the landmark Universal Health Care (UHC) Act of 2019.

As one of the authors of the UHC law in Congress, Herrera welcomed the government’s assurance, saying it “helps to allay concerns that the corruption scandal and funding problems hounding PhilHealth would delay the law’s implementation.”

“We cannot afford any delay in the implementation of the law, which guarantees equitable access to quality and affordable health care services for all Filipinos,” Herrera said.

With Ryan Ponce Pacpaco