President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to form a task force to investigate alleged corruption and anomalies within the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

In a memorandum, Duterte told Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to look into PhilHealth finances and conduct lifestyle checks on the state insurance firm’s officials and employees.

“The DOJ shall have the authority to require other agencies and instrumentalities of the government to assist in its work. It may also seek the assistance of the constitutional commissions and other independent government bodies, and even invite them to become members of the panel,” the memorandum read.

The panel may recommend to Duterte the imposition of preventive suspension on any PhilHealth official or employee “to ensure the unhampered conduct of the investigation.”

Duterte required a report on findings, recommendations and proposed legal actions against officials and employees found responsible for fraudulent acts, to be submitted within 30 days from the creation of the task force. 

Palace spokesman Harry Roque said in a virtual briefing on Friday that the panel would include officials from the Office of the President, Office of the Executive Secretary, Office of the Ombudsman, Commission on Audit, Civil Service Commission and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission.

The directive came after resigned PhilHealth anti-fraud officer Thorrsson Keith bared a massive corruption scheme inside the state-run corporation, in which officials supposedly pocketed P15 billion.

PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales has denied Keith’s accusations, saying he was a disgruntled employee who was not qualified for promotion.

Roque said the order was proof of Duterte being hands-on against corruption.

“Mga kababayan, huwag po kayong mag-alala, nakinig po ang ating Presidente at umakto bagama’t wala pa pong mapapatunayan sa lalong mabilis na panahon,” he added. John Ezekiel J. Hirro