Gov’t forms task force to look into PhilHealth mess
MANILA, Philippines — A task force that would look into the alleged irregularities and corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) was created upon the orders of President Rodrigo Duterte.
According to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Task Force PhilHealth will feature an inter-agency cooperation between the Office of the President, Office of the Ombudsman, Commission on Audit (COA), and the Civil Service Commission (CSC).
Guevarra will head Task Force PhilHealth.
“Upon the order of President Rodrigo Roa Durterte, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra has formed Task Force PhilHealth,” a statement from the Department of Justice (DOJ) said.
“The National Bureau of Investigation and the Anti-Money Laundering Council, among other agencies, are also being tapped to support Task Force PhilHealth in its work,” it added.
PhilHealth has been rocked by several corruption allegations that cover past and present projects. The recent edition began after sources revealed that a PhilHealth official — eventually identified as resigned anti-fraud officer Thorrsson Montes Keith — resigned due to widespread corruption in the agency.
Keith said in a Senate hearing on the issue last Tuesday that a syndicate within PhilHealth managed to fatten their pockets with P15 billion due to schemes perpetrated by PhilHealth officials themselves.
Aside from this, it was also revealed that PhilHealth procured several items like softwares and gadgets at a grossly overpriced value, for example, an Adobe Master Collection Set priced at less than P200,000 was purchased for P21 million.
According to Guevarra, he has already talked to the heads of the various offices that make up the task force — Ombudsman Samuel Martires, COA Chairperson Michael Aguinaldo, and CSC Chairperson Alicia dela Rosa-Bala — about their invitation.
All of them accepted the invitation to the Task Force PhilHealth, Guevarra said. In terms of legality, the DOJ chief said he does not see any problem with constitutional bodies joining the probe, as they would only be performing their core functions in relation to the investigation.
“The independent constitutional bodies will perform their core functions as part of the task force. The COA will audit, the CSC will provide guidance on personnel actions, and the Ombudsman will investigate and prosecute anti-graft complaints that the task force may file. Nothing ultra vires,” Guevarra said in a message.
“I personally talked to their respective heads today, respectfully sought their assistance, and graciously invited them to join us in the task force. All of them accepted our invitation without any reservation or condition and promised their full support,” he added.
PhilHealth, a state-run health insurance system, has been tagged as a corruption-riddled agency over the years. In 2019, an investigative report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer showed that already dead patients were included in the list of beneficiaries receiving dialysis treatments shouldered by the agency.
As a health insurance corporation, it is also responsible for making payouts to hospital expenses incurred by PhilHealth members, especially during these times where many are hospitalized due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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