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PhilHealth’s legal sector a ‘very ripe source’ of irregularities — DOJ chief Guevarra

The legal department of PhilHealth would have the special attention of the task force leading the probe on alleged irregularities, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

"So far, in the fact-finding, in the investigation reports that we have received so far, including those from the Senate and House of Representatives, it seems that the legal sector is a very ripe source of irregularities," Guevarra said in a taped briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte aired Tuesday.

"This seems to be one of the biggest sources of allegedly fraudulent activities," he added.

Guevarra said the task force will also focus on PhilHealth's IT system and its Interim Reimbursement Mechanism.

"The impression is that the information technology system of PhilHealth is fragmented. And it can easily be manipulated because there is no centralized control over the management information system,” he said.

The financial management of the state health insurer shall likewise be combed through.

"This is again one area where we believe many irregularities in the past have been committed," he said.

Lifestyle checks

As composite teams of the task force, including the National Bureau of Investigation, Commission on Audit, Anti-Money Laundering Council, and Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, dig deeper into the alleged irregularities, lifestyle checks would simultaneously be conducted, according to Guevarra.

"There might be a reinforcing effect if we see that these guys are probably involved in this particular irregularity. They're making money and it's being shown in their lifestyle," Guevarra said.

He said the "ultimate goal" of the task force is to file legal action in the Office of the Ombudsman and put erring PhilHealth officials to justice.

"We will try to make use of the reports that we received from the Senate and the House of Representatives because as you probably very well know, the investigations that they conducted were supposed to be in aid of legislation, but the same evidence will be used also for the purpose of filing legal action," Guevarra said.

A recommendation for structural reforms and partial or total reorganization of PhilHealth may also be recommended to strengthen the institution, he added.

The Governance Commission for GOCCs could also create an interim management committee for PhilHealth, upon the direction of the Office of the President, according to Guevarra.

Guevarra also said he hoped that the work of the task force may help Congress in crafting a law to strengthen PhilHealth and "make it more responsive to the needs of the people."

During the same briefing, Duterte vowed to go after corrupt PhilHealth officials and put them behind bars.

"One of the things that I can do in the remaining two years of my term, uubusin ko itong panahon ko to work on the cases or people who are involved in the PhilHealth," he said.

The task force investigating PhilHealth has 30 days from its formation to submit to Malacañang its findings and recommendations. — RSJ, GMA News