Task Force eyes structural reforms, reorganization of PhilHealth as probe finds ‘centers of fraud’

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 25)— The multi-agency task force looking into the alleged irregularities within the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation plans to recommend “structural reforms” for the embattled agency, according to the Justice Department.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra— whose agency leads the investigation team— also floated the possible creation of proposals for the reorganization— whether partial or total— of the state health insurer.

“We hope to be able to make recommendations as well for structural reforms at PhilHealth. In the course of our investigation, we’ll probably be able to discover what structural reforms need to be done at PhilHealth,” Guevarra said in a taped COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force address aired on Tuesday.

The task force— which was created by President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this month— has until mid-September to submit their findings and propose legal actions to the chief executive. Guevarra said component agencies have already been ordered to fast-track the investigation on the case.

Guevarra said that as of the moment, the probe team has been zeroing in on four specific areas which may have had links to the alleged fraud and irregularities within the agency. These include the following:

- PhilHealth’s information technology (IT) system;

- legal sector;

- Interim Reimbursement Mechanism or IRM; and

- financial management

Guevarra said the PhilHealth’s IT system— which has also drew numerous questions in earlier Congressional probes— can be “easily manipulated” given there is no centralized control over the management system. He added that upon initial investigation reports, the legal and financial management sectors of PhilHealth have likewise become sources of supposed irregularities.

The Justice chief added the team is also conducting lifestyle checks on certain key officials of PhilHealth.

“We are also conducting lifestyle checks of certain key officials of PhilHealth so that we can relate, we can connect the irregularities that we uncovered during the investigation, with the lifestyle of these people. There might be a reinforcing effect,” Guevarra said.

Prison time for erring officials

Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte once again threatened erring officials of the agency, saying that those involved in such anomalies should face jail time.

In the same taped address, the President vowed to work on these cases of corruption in the remainder of his term.

‘Yung PhilHealth ang dapat imbestigahan, dapat i-prosecute lahat, dapat ikulong,” Duterte said.

[Translation: PhilHealth (officials) should be investigated, be prosecuted, should be imprisoned.]

“One of the few things that I can do in the remaining of my term, uubusin ko ‘yung panahon ko (I will devote my remaining time) to work on the cases of people who are involved in the PhilHealth,” he added.

Top officials and employees of the agency have earlier denied allegations of “widespread corruption” within the system, but nevertheless promised to cooperate with the ongoing probes.

The Ombudsman has already placed more than 10 PhilHealth officials under preventive suspension during the conduct of the investigation.