Task force probe on PhilHealth should cover ‘2013 onwards’ – Sotto
MANILA, Philippines — Since the high-level task force created to investigate alleged corruption at the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) is at it, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said it might as well extend its probe as far back as 2013.
“I suggest they start from 2013 onwards,” Sotto said in a message to reporterswhen sought for a comment on the creation of the task force. “Yun daw ang grabe start ng corruption, according to PACC (Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission).”
Sotto made the suggestion, after the PACC recently reported that PhilHealth has lost more than P153 billion since 2013, or “roughly 30% of the payment of the total claim of P512.6 billion,” which the state-run health insurer made in the same period, due to fraud.
Days after the Senate opened its investigation into fresh allegations of corruption within PhilHealth, Duterte directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to form the task force, which would be composed of the Office of the Ombudsman, Commission on Audit (COA), Civil Service Commission (CSC), Office of the Executive Secretary, Office of the Special Assistant to the President, as well as the PACC.
Sotto recently said the Senate will provide the Palace with a copy of its findings regarding the allegations of corruption in PhilHealth.
The chamber is set to resume its investigation into the PhilHealth mess on August 11, Tuesday.
Independent constitutional bodies
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, for his part, welcomed the President’s directive.
“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,” Drilon, a former justice secretary, said in a separate message to reporters.
However, he pointed out that the constitutional commissions “(cannot) be members of the panel constituted by the DOJ.”
“The Constitution provides that these Commissions shall be independent offices,” the Senate minority leader said.
“The powers of these offices cannot be limited by their membership in the panel and they may, in fact, choose to pursue independent investigation or audit regardless of, or notwithstanding the result of the investigation to be conducted by the panel organized by the DOJ,” he added.
Senator Sonny Angara, likewise, called the creation of the task force as a “good move.”
But similar to Drilon, Angara raised concerns regarding the members of the task force, saying that they are independent from one another.
“Just to note that (CSC), COA and Ombudsman are independent constitutional bodies… Hoping that in working together with executive agencies this will facilitate the investigation while still maintaining their independence,” he said.
On Tuesday, senators grilled PhilHealth officials during an almost 10-hour hearing into new allegations of corruption in the agency, including a proposed P2.1-billion information technology project, the supposedly questionable release of funds under the corporation’s Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) and the alleged manipulation of the corporation’s financial status.
A recently resigned PhilHealth anti-fraud officer also claimed during the same hearing that a mafia-like syndicate operating in the agency allegedly pocketed P15 billion through various schemes.
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