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Hospital owners tagged in mess

Hananeel Bordey

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Not only public officials but also hospital owners will be made accountable in the charges to be filed by the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission over irregularities in Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica said.

The PACC findings will be consolidated with those of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) before a complaint is filed with the office of the Ombudsman.

Belgica disclosed the investigation will include former officials such as Department of Health (DoH) Secretary Francisco Duque who once was chairman of the agency.

Mass leave from VP
Six PhilHealth regional vice presidents filed their leave of absence on Saturday following the investigation launched by the task force created by President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a letter addressed to PhilHealth EVP and chief operating officer Arnel de Jesus dated 15 August, the regional vice presidents said they will heed the call of the Department of Justice (DoJ) to voluntarily leave their posts while the investigations are ongoing.

The six PhilHealth executives are Region IV-B vice president Paolo Johann Perez, Region VI vice president Atty. Valerie Hollero, Region X vice president Datu Masising Alonto Jr., ARMM vice president Atty. Khaliquzzaman Macabato, Regional vice president Dennis Adre and Regional vice president William Chavez.

DoJ chief lauds move
DoJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra confirmed that he received a copy of the PhilHealth officials’ leave paper at around noontime yesterday.

“I am glad that the regional vice presidents of PhilHealth have voluntarily heeded my call for them to take leaves of absence while the investigations are going on, in order to preclude any suspicion that their presence may lead to a suppression of evidence and thus hamper the conduct of these investigations,” Guevarra noted.

“I hope that the officials at the PhilHealth main office who had been tagged in the ongoing congressional inquiries in aid of legislation, as well as those identified by the PACC, would likewise take a temporary leave,” he added.

“The ongoing Senate and House of Representatives investigations into graft and corruption at PhilHealth demand full cooperation from all its officers and staff. This is necessary to help determine and assign culpability in the most expeditious manner,” the PhilHealth executives said in their letter.

Their leave of absence will take effect on 17 August 2020 except for the two who are in floating status since September last year.

“This will give investigators a free hand in finding out those responsible and finally bring them to account,” they said.

Officers-in-charge are already designated in their respective offices to ensure that the daily operations will continue despite their absence.

“Respectfully forwarding for the information of Task Force PhilHealth, the letter to PhilHealth executive vice president and chief operating officer, Mr. Arnel de Jesus from regional vice presidents who have decided to file their voluntary leave of absence in support of the investigation being done by the task force following the investigations in the Senate and House of Representatives,” Hollero said in their letter.

Proper step
Malacañang said the PhilHealth regional officers have filed their leaves of absence in view of the alleged corruption taking place within the agency. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the six officials, however, are not members of the alleged “mafia” referred to by Senator Panfilo Lacson but were, in fact, referred to as “heroes” by PhilHealth board member Alejandro Cabading during his Senate testimonies.

“They chose to go on leave and heeded the call of Department of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra for those whose names are mentioned in the investigation to go on leave,” Roque said.

“We consider this as the right and proper thing to do,” he added.

Roque said the Palace is reiterating the call of the DoJ Secretary, who heads the PhilHealth Task Force, for those officers under investigation, particularly the members of the Executive Committee who have been named in the investigations of both Senate and House, to follow their action and go on leave.

with Francis Wakefield,
Alvin Murcia

and Pat C. Santos

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