DOJ chief Guevarra tells PhilHealth officials under investigation to go on leave

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Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday advised officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) now under probe to voluntarily go on leave.

Guevarra said he hopes PhilHealth officials whose operations are under investigation or special audit should go on leave.

“They know who they are. If they are not hiding anything, they can take a leave of absence to enable the investigators/auditors to freely complete their inquiry or examination,” Guevarra said.

“Besides, the National Privacy Commission has repeatedly declared that the Data Privacy Act may not be used to hinder the conduct of legitimate government investigations,” Guevarra said.

Upon the orders of President Rodrigo Duterte, Guevarra has formed a task force that will look into allegations of corruption within the state health insurer.

He said he will personally oversee the task force’s operation.

He said the DOJ team will convene on Monday to finalize a strategy for the consideration of the task force, which is composed of the Office of the Ombudsman, the Commission on Audit, the Civil Service Commission, and the Office of the President.

“The members of the task force are presently identifying which specific investigations or audits, other than on the WellMed issue, could be reasonably accomplished within the limited period given to the task force,” Guevarra said.

The WellMed issue, which was revealed last year, involved a dialysis clinic that allegedly used falsified documents to collect payments from PhilHealth for medical services to patients who had already died.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said at the time that it was also investigating the claims of other PhilHealth-accredited hospitals and clinics.

More recently, a former anti-fraud legal officer at PhilHealth claimed that top officials had stolen some P15 billion from  the state insurer through fraudulent schemes.

An official said PhilHealth executives will file a libel complaint against resigned officer Thorrsson Montes Keith over his allegations.

PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales admitted that the agency could have lost P10.2 billion due to fraud in 2019, however, he denied that they pocketed the money./Stacy Ang

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