Palace leaves it up to the Senate on PhilHealth execs ‘absence’ from probe

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Malacañang would leave it up to the Senate to comment on the possibility that officials from the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) may skip its next hearing on the alleged irregularities within the agency.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque made the remark Sunday after PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales executive vice president Arnel De Jesus said their unfavorable medical conditions to the Senate ahead of the continuation of its hearing on Tuesday.

“We leave it to the Senate, a separate co-equal branch, to comment on reports that officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation may skip their hearing, scheduled on August 11, for medical or health reasons,” Roque said in a statement.

Morales’ oncologist reportedly sent a medical certificate to the Senate Committee of the Whole Friday night. According to the medical certificate, Morales is undergoing chemotherapy after being diagnosed with lymphoma, and his condition has made him immunocompromised and prone to infections.

The PhilHealth chief, 67, was advised by his doctor to take a leave of absence.

De Jesus, 61, meanwhile, sent his official communication to the office of Senate President Vicente Sotto III, informing the latter that he cannot attend the hearing on Tuesday due to an “unforeseen medical emergency.”

The PhilHealth official, who was diagnosed with various illnesses including acute coronary syndrome, hypertensive heart disease, and diabetes type 2, has been admitted at the hospital since August 5, and is scheduled to undergo an angiogram, angioplasty, and pulse generator replacement.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said it will be PhilHealth’s loss if they cannot refute the new issues that will be raised in the next Senate hearing due to the absence of its high-ranking officials, Lacson said.

“Ang magiging epekto nito, sa PhilHealth… It’s their loss. Ang alam ko, may mga bagong sasabihin ang mga resource persons. Tapos may bago kaming documents na medyo incriminating,” he said.

“Of course kawalan din namin kasi isang side lang marinig namin. Pero mas kawalan nila yan kasi hindi nila masasagot,” he added.

Roque said the inter-agency task force which President Rodrigo Duterte ordered to be created will continue to perform its mandate to investigate the allegations thrown against PhilHealth, such as the audit of the agency’s finances and conduct of lifestyle checks on its officials and employees.

It may also recommend the preventive suspension of any official to make way for a continuous and unhampered investigation, he added.

The task force will be composed of the Department of Justice, Office of the Ombudsman, Commission on Audit, Civil Service Commission, Office of the Executive Secretary, Undersecretary Jesus Melchor Quitain of the Office of the Special Assistant to the President and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission.

“There is no turning back as we expect the Task Force to submit its findings and recommendations to the Office of the President within 30 days after its constitution as directed by the Chief Executive,” Roque said.

Morales has denied protecting corrupt officials in the agency after former anti-fraud legal officer Thorsson Montes Keith revealed that officials were able to steal some P15 billion from the state insurer through several fraudulent schemes./Stacy Ang

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