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Duterte vows crackdown vs. corrupt PhilHealth execs

President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday he would be tough against officials of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) who would be found stealing funds supposed to be for the people’s health insurance program.

"Itong PhilHealth, sabi ko yayariin ko kayong lahat, maniwala kayo.  Iyong mga inosente naman, wala kayong dapat i-ano, tahimik lang kayo at continue working,” he said in a televised briefing from Presidential Guest House in Panacan, Davao City.

“Ngayon ito, nakalusot kayo sa ibang maybe presidente o ano pero dito sa akin, sadsad talaga kayo . . . ,” Duterte added.

Several officials of the state health insurer, led by its president, Ricardo Morales, are embroiled in corruption allegations after witnesses surfaced detailing the purported misuse of funds, overpricing of projects, questionable implementation of the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism and manipulated financial statements that have put the agency’s fund life on shaky ground.

A whistleblower had also claimed that a mafia within PhilHealth was able to pocket P15 billion.

The Senate has started an investigation of the anomalies. 

Duterte had said he will not fire Morales unless there is proof the retired military general is involved in corruption.  

Senator Panfilo Lacson, one of the senators who exposed the alleged wrongdoing, said Duterte should go through the transcript of the almost 10-hour Senate hearing on the alleged irregularities in PhilHealth to get the "whiff of corruption" he requires to axe erring government officials.

Last Friday, Duterte ordered the creation of an inter-agency task force to probe the PhilHealth executives.

The task force is composed of the Department of Justice, Office of the Ombudsman, Commission on Audit, Civil Service Commission, Office of the Executive Secretary, Undersecretary Jesus Melchor Quitain of the Office of the Special Assistant to the President and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission.

Just as the Senate gears up for its next hearing,  Morales on Monday said he is seeking medical leave due to an illness.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said government officials with serious illnesses should  instead relinquish their posts, especially if their mandate is being compromised.—LDF, GMA News