The presidential palace and the Senate will investigate officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and Health department for alleged corruption in their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte has ordered Undersecretary Melchor Quitain of the Office of the Special Assistant to the President to investigate PhilHealth, while a resolution seeking a Senate probe of P1 billion worth of transactions at the Health department was under way.
“We view the allegations of Mr. Keith a serious matter and therefore enjoin him and other officials to cooperate with the ongoing investigation,” presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque said in a statement on Friday.
He was referring to Thorrson Montes Keith, an anti-fraud legal officer at PhilHealth who resigned due to alleged corruption at the agency.
“This inquiry will be one of the Senate’s top agenda after our session resumes on Monday,” Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said in a statement on Friday, citing Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III.
Senator Franklin M. Drilon also sought to investigate PhilHealth because P221 billion worth of public funds — PhilHealth’s total asset as of April — was on the line.
“Whatever their issues in PhilHealth are, we must protect the funds of PhilHealth to the tune of P221 billion both from corruption and disarray in the agency,” he said in a separate statement.
This is not the first time PhilHealth will be subjected to a Senate inquiry. The Senate had investigated the agency over “ghost dialysis” and the more recent overpriced COVID-19 test kits.
Also among those pushing for the investigation were Mr. Sotto and Senators Aquilino L. Pimentel III, Christopher Lawrence T. Go, Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva, Juan Edgardo M. Angara and Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel.
Senator Francis N. Pangilinan said PhilHealth officials who were implicated should be fired immediately and charged for plunder.
PhilHealth said it had “nothing to hide” and was ready to face the probe. “Allegations not substantiated by evidence are hearsay and outright malicious,” the agency said in a social media post.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told an online news briefing the Health department would submit a report to Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III, who is the PhilHealth chairman. — Charmaine A. Tadalan