Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Friday bared that Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) officials are under investigation over the agency's alleged overpriced purchase of IT system worth over P2 billion.
Interviewed on GMA News' Unang Hirit, Roque also urged Thorrsson Montes Keith, PhilHealth's anti-fraud officer who recently tendered his resignation over "widespread corruption" in the agency, to assist in the investigation being spearheaded by Undersecretary Jesus Melchor Quitain of the Office of the Special Assistant to the President.
"Nananawagan ako sa kaniya na ngayong meron nang pormal na imbestigasyon, sana po ay makipagtulungan na lang siya tutal siya naman ay nag-resign na para matigil na once and for all ang corruption diyan sa PhilHealth," said Roque.
"Kung hindi niya nagawa habang nasa loob, gawin na niya ngayon at sabihin na niya ang lahat ng nalalaman niya bilang anti-fraud officer," he added.
Roque later said in an interview on Dobol B sa News TV that the probe into the alleged PhilHealth anomalies was in compliance with the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Alam po [ng Presidente] kaya nga niya binigyan ng otoridad na mag-imbestiga itong si [Undersecretary] Quitain,” he said.
Roque said he has a copy of Keith's resignation letter where the former PhilHealth official mentioned of "widespread corruption" in the agency.
But in a separate interview, Philhealth president Ricardo Morales denied irregularities in the agency, and even and dared Keith to back his claim of "widespread corruption."
"[Aabot sa] 50,000 transactions ang hina-handle ng PhilHealth araw-araw, palagay ko naman kung hindi corruption ‘yung mga inefficiencies diyan, mali ‘yung pasok [ng entries], kulang. Pero iyong sinasabi na korapsyon na may sindikato, may mafia, wala hong ebidensiya," Morales said in an interview on Dobol B sa News TV.
"Kung may alam siyang corruption, ilabas niya. Mag-aantay pa siya ng August 31 [for his resignation to become effective]? Gawin na niyang Lunes o ngayon, kasi detrimental na ‘yung ano niya… it would compromise the corporation for him to stay, for him to have access to the resources of the corporation," he added.
In a statement, PhilHealth spokesperson Gigi Domingo said the agency does not tolerate corruption.
"The Corporation assures the public that it takes seriously any issue of corruption and asks Atty. Keith to substantiate his accusations so proper procedures can be initiated," she said.
Domingo added they have yet to formally receive Keith's resignation letter.
According to Roque, PhilHealth's private board members were opposed to the agency's purchase of an IT system as its component worth over P730 million has yet to get approval from the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).
Roque said it was agreed upon during a recent meeting that this matter should be investigated. He said he himself referred the issue to a Palace office for the investigation.
"Importante ang IT purchase kasi lahat ng kababalaghan diyan sa PhilHealth ay nagagawa kasi nga po wala silang mabuting IT system para maiwasan 'yang corruption na 'yan," said Roque, who once represented whistle-blowers in filing a complaint against PhilHealth.
Without mentioning any names, Roque said he believes there is a systematic corruption within PhilHealth involving top officials.
"Ang kongklusyon ko diyan talaga ay may sindikato talaga at ito ay 'yung pinakamatataas na career executives diyan sa PhilHealth [ang involved]," he said.
"Hindi natin nilalahat, pero ang pinakamatitindi po diyan ay 'yung pinakamatataas ang katungkulan dahil sila ang bumubuo sa mga polisiya ng PhilHealth," Roque added.
According to an Unang Balita report on Friday, Keith and two other PhilHealth officials have resigned from the agency.
Domingo, in the statement, said Executive Assistant Etrobal Laborte resigned in July to pursue his PhD while a certain "Atty Labe" has "vehemently denie[d] any news of his resignation.
Among Keith's grievances is the supposed unfair promotion process in PhilHealth. In response, Domingo said: "Any grievances on promotion, which Atty. Keith applied for, can be resolved thru its grievance machinery."
A source told GMA News that the alleged corrupt practices were revealed during a heated argument during a Zoom meeting among PhilHealth officials on Thursday evening.
Following this development, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III is expected to look into the issue.
"Tinitingnan pa natin 'yang incident na 'yan and of course magsa-submit naman ang PhilHealth ng official na report na 'yan kay Secretary being the chair of the Board of PhilHealth," Vergeire told reporters in a virtual interview Friday.
Meanwhile, a Senate investigation is underway, according to Senator Panfilo Lacson.
"I am now drafting a resolution calling for a Senate Committee of the Whole inquiry," Lacson said in a message to reporters.
Lacson said the inquiry on the alleged corruption issue hounding PhilHealth and the status of its fund life will be among the upper chamber's "top agenda" after session resumes on Monday. —KBK/RSJ/AOL, GMA News