Duterte orders DOJ to form panel to probe PhilHealth, conduct lifestyle checks of officials, staff
President Rodrigo Duterte has directed the Department of Justice to form a panel to investigate the alleged widespread corruption and anomalies in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp., including lifestyle checks of its officials and employees.
In a memorandum to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra dated August 7, Duterte said the panel may recommend to him the imposition of preventive suspension on any PhilHealth official to ensure the unhampered conduct of the probe.
"The DOJ is hereby directed to organize a panel for the conduct of an investigation on the various allegations of corruption and anomalies in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, including the audit of the PhilHealth finances and conduct of lifestyle checks on its officials and employees," he said.
Duterte has given DOJ the authority to require other agencies and instrumentalities of the government to be members of the panel or to assist in its work.
The Justice department may also seek the assistance of the constitutional commissions and other independent government bodies, and even invite them to be members of the panel.
The President has given the panel 30 days from its formation to submit to his office a report.
"Within 30 days from its constitution, the panel through the Secretary of Justice, shall submit to the Office of the President its findings and recommendations, which shall include proposed legal actions against officials and employees found responsible for act of corruption or anomalies in PhilHealth," he said.
Duterte's order to DOJ to create a panel of investigators came amid allegations of mafia-like syndicate in PhilHealth and its president and CEO Ricardo Morales was allegedly the coddler.
Morales, however, denied that he was the coddler of the syndicate that allegedly pocketed P15 billion of PhilHealth's fund through various schemes.
During the Senate probe, another PhilHealth executive said that the agency could collapse by 2022 as it is running out of funds amid the coronavirus disease pandemic.
Senator Panfilo Lacson has said that what is happening in PhilHealth is not just a "whiff of corruption" and yet no one was fired yet.
In the past, Duterte had said he would fire any government official by a mere "whiff" of corruption.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, in a virtual media briefing, said Duterte has listened, thus, he ordered the creation of the panel.
He noted that while the Senate and the House of Representatives could investigate the PhilHealth, it has no power to issue a preventive suspension to any official being investigated.
"Now, this investigation includes the preventive suspension," he said as he assured that the Duterte administration would ensure that the PhilHealth's fund is protected. Celerina Monte/DMS