Duterte vows to go after erring PhilHealth officials

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he would go after corrupt officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) involved in siphoning billions of the state insurer’s funds.

“’Wag kayong magkakamali itong — itong PhilHealth. Sabi ko yayariin ko kayong lahat, maniwala kayo (Make no mistake. These PhilHealth officials, I said, I’ll get them),” Duterte said in a late-night public address in Davao City.

Duterte said “innocent” PhilHealth officials should just keep working.

“Iyong mga inosente naman, wala kayong dapat i-ano, tahimik lang kayo at continue working (Those innocent, you don’t have to worry, just stay quiet and continue working),” he said.

He said that while corrupt PhilHealth officials might have eluded being caught during the previous administration, he was certain that his Cabinet members would help get rid of them.

“And with the help of mga Cabinet members ko, hindi na lang — hindi ko na lang ipagyabang but these are people also… Simple lang. Why? Why are they really helping me to get rid of you? Kung maaari lang patayin ka? Alam mo bakit (And with the help of my Cabinet members… I won’t brag, but these are simple people who really help me get rid of these corrupt officials. And why?) Because simply they love their country,” he said.

On Friday, Duterte signed a memorandum designating the Department of Justice (DOJ) to create a task force to investigate “massive corruption” within the 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.

Under the terms of the President’s directive, during the course of the investigation, if warranted, the panel may recommend to Duterte the imposition of preventive suspension on any PhilHealth official to ensure the unhampered conduct of the investigation.

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.

Earlier, resigned PhilHealth anti-fraud legal officer Thorsson Montes Keith claimed that around PHP15 billion of the agency’s funds have been allegedly pocketed by PhilHealth officials.

PhilHealth acting senior vice president Nerissa Santiago also admitted that PhilHealth 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) crisis. PNA.GOV.PH