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Duterte orders probe into alleged anomalies in PhilHealth

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered an investigation into claims of anomalies in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), Malacañang said Friday.

Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque said the investigation is headed by Undersecretary Jesus Melchor Quitain of the Office of the Special Assistant to the President.

The investigation covers the allegations of former PhilHealth anti-fraud legal officer Thorrsson Montes Keith, who recently tendered his resignation over "widespread corruption" in the agency. Roque said he personally received a copy of Keith’s resignation letter.

“We view the allegations of Mr. Keith as a serious matter and therefore enjoin him, and other officials, to cooperate with the ongoing investigation,” Roque added.

Roque did not say if Keith mentioned specific anomalies in his letter, but in separate interviews on Friday, the Palace official noted of an allegedly overpriced IT system purchase of PhilHealth and questioned its allocation of funds to reimburse claims of accredited hospitals across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales has denied irregularities in the agency and challenged Keith to substantiate his claim.

"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 said in an interview on Dobol B sa News TV earlier in the day.

Morales said Keith only raised the issue of corruption because the latter’s application for promotion was rejected.

"Hindi naman siya qualified roon kasi kailangan ng training, attitude," he said, as he jokingly referred to Keith as a "spurned lover."

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 also 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. 

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. —KBK, GMA News