MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has issued a memorandum directing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to create a task force that will investigate the supposed widespread corruption and irregularities within the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
Duterte’s memorandum inked on Friday orders the creation of a panel tasked to conduct a probe into the various corruption allegations hurled against PhilHealth.
The task force is also mandated to make an audit of the PhilHealth finances and conduct lifestyle checks on the state insurer’s officials and employees, according to the presidential memorandum.
“The DOJ shall have the authority to require other agencies and instrumentalities of the government to be members of the panel or to assist in its work. It may also seek the assistance of the constitutional commissions and other independent government bodies, and even invite them to be members of the panel,” Duterte, in his memorandum, said.
In a virtual press conference, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said other members of the task force include the Office of the Ombudsman, Commission on Audit, Civil Service Commission, the Office of the Executive Secretary, the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Office of the Special Assistant to the President.
Duterte gave the latest directive after a former anti-fraud officer of PhilHealth claimed that around PHP15 billion of the agency’s funds have been pocketed by corrupt PhilHealth officials.
Resigned PhilHealth anti-fraud legal officer Thorsson Montes Keith bared that all members of PhilHealth’s executive committee composed the “mafia,” which had been allegedly defrauding the state corporation for the past years through unlawful transactions.
Keith’s allegations also came after PhilHealth acting senior vice president Nerissa Santiago’s admission that the state-owned insurance firm could go bankrupt in 2021 due to the decreased collections and increased payouts for the health expenses of its members due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
‘Happy days are numbered’
Thirty days after its creation, the task force is mandated to submit to the Office of the President its findings and recommendations, which should include the proposed legal actions against PhilHealth officials and employees who will be found involved in corrupt activities.
“During the course of investigation, if warranted, the panel may recommend to the President the imposition of preventive suspension on any PhilHealth official to ensure the unhampered conduct of the investigation,” the memorandum read.
Roque said the fate of corrupt PhilHealth officials and employees would now lie in the hands of the task force.
He also warned that the erring PhilHealth personnel’s “happy days are numbered.”
“The President deferred to the agencies [that are members of the task force] and to their appreciation of evidence,” he said. “Ang mensahe sa mga buwaya sa PhilHealth, tapos na po ang maliligayang araw niyo diyan. Goodbye (The message to corrupt PhilHealth personnel, your happy days there are numbered. Goodbye).”
‘Zero-tolerance’ for corruption
Roque said Duterte’s latest order proves that the President has “zero tolerance” for corruption.
He said the issues plaguing PhilHealth “exasperated” Duterte.
“Mukhang exasperated na ang Presidente (The President seemed to be exasperated),” Roque said. “So mga kababayan, huwag po kayong mag-alala, nakinig po si Presidente at umakto (To my fellow countrymen, do not worry, the President has listened to us and acted on [the anomalies hounding PhilHealth]).” (PNA)