Cayetano suggests hiring financial forensic experts to investigate corruptions in gov’t agencies

Marje Pelayo   •   August 6, 2020   •   218

MANILA, Philippines –  House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano suggests hiring of financial forensic experts to help investigate irregularities in government transactions and to hold accountable any official involved in corruption. 

Dahil pagdating sa paper trail na at sa white collar na type of crimes, what we need is not the street type of investigators pero yun nga yung mga forensic, financial forensic,” Cayetano said.

[Because when it comes to the paper trail and white-collar type of crimes, what we need is not the street type of investigators but those who are financial forensics.]

This was his proposal in relation to the Senate and the House of Representatives’ hearing on the alleged corruption inside the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

“I’m a little bit concerned that if it can happen to PhilHealth, what about the other government financial institutions who obviously get billions or hundreds of billions in budget. We have to have an effective watchdog,” the House Speaker noted.

Cayetano assures the support of Congress when it comes to the budget that will be needed should the Commision on Audit (COA) and the Philippine Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) decide to hire such experts.

The said financial forensic experts will not concentrate on PhilHealth alone but to other agencies and departments in the government.

Marikina Representative Stella Quimbo, meanwhile, expressed her agreement to Cayetano’s proposal saying these experts will be a big help in scrutinizing important documents that can be used as evidence to unveil widespread corruption in a specific government agency. 

“Agree po fully kay Speaker. Importanteng malaman ang [I fully agree with the Speaker. It’s important that we determine the] extent and patterns of fraud through the financial records,” she explained.

“This will facilitate investigation and evidence gathering in a systemic way. Otherwise, piecemeal ang approach. The financial forensics will show kung talamak ang fraud,” she added.

READ: Duterte wants probe on alleged PhilHealth anomaly

State insurer PhilHealth is currently in hot water after reports of alleged corruption among its executives particularly the ‘overpriced’ IT equipment and projects. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Duterte commends Ombudsman’s efforts in PhilHealth probe

Marje Pelayo   •   September 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has nothing but praises for the Office of the Ombudsman on its investigation on the irregularities inside the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

In the duration of the probe, Ombudsman Samuel Martires suspended for six months 13 officials of the embattled agency.

The president said the relationship between the executive branch and the ombudsman has improved a lot.

“No other time na ang rapport ng Ombudsman sa Executive department ay maganda ang samahan. [There’s no other time that the rapport between the Ombudsman and the Executive department is smooth.] It’s a matter of human relations. How you present the problem. And I find Martires, a very reasonable man,” the President said. 

He said he also understands Ombudsman Martires’ desire to finally end the controversies in PhilHealth.

“Iyong (pinalabas) ng PhilHealth, sunod-sunod. Sabi ko, I think he’s trying his best to help us. Kung ganoon ang sitwasyon, at least we’re better off. At least, for now,” President Duterte said. -MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte approves filing of cases against Morales, et al

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 15, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the filing of charges against former Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) CEO Ricardo Morales and other officials allegedly involved in the ‘mass corruption’ inside the agency.

“The issue of PhilHealth corruption was really an important issue to the Filipinos and to everybody. And everybody again is also placed in jeopardy by the actions of the officials,” the President said.

“I’m sorry for them but you have to undergo trial. Although they can always prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The presumption of innocence still attaches but the report of another agency says otherwise. So ganun ang nangyari sa PhilHealth. Halos lahat sa board,” he added.

Based on the investigation of Task Force PhilHealth, several officials have violations of withholding taxes regarding the interim reimbursement mechanism, graft, and malversion. They will also be facing charges for dishonesty, grave misconduct, disloyalty, gross neglect of duty, inefficiency and incompetence, as well as falsification of public documents.

The officials who will be facing the said charges aside from Morales are Senior Vice President Renato Limsiaco Jr., Senior Vice President Jovita Aragona, Officer-in-Charge Calixto Gabuya Jr., Senior Vice President Israel Pargas, Executive Vice President and COO Arnel De Jesus, and Division Chief Bobby Crisostomo.

Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who is also leading the Task Force PhilHealth, said they are still continuing their investigation.

“Our composite teams will continue their ongoing investigations and special audits and file legal actions as they finish one case after another,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, PhilHealth released a statement saying the involved officials are prepared to follow the President’s mandate and will cooperate in the process. AAC (with reports from Dante Amento)

Duque not yet cleared from PhilHealth mess – Palace

Marje Pelayo   •   September 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) Task Force PhilHealth may have finished its probe into the alleged irregularities within the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) but Malacañang said the matter is not yet over for Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Duque is not yet cleared from the controversy even after President Rodrigo Duterte named some officials of the state insurer who he ordered to file administrative and criminal charges against. 

To the surprise of many, Duque was not in the list. 

Task Force PhilHealth recommended to the President to admonish the officials of the agency from the chairman down to the members of the board for their actions and inactions on matters concerning the funds of PhilHealth.

Roque stressed that investigation on PhilHealth issue is far from over.

“This is only the beginning,” Roque said.

“Nakasaad din po sa report na magpapatuloy po ang imbestigasyon ng NBI at ng DOJ, at magpapatuloy pa rin po ang imbestigasyon ng Ombudsman [The report also stated that the investigation of NBI and the DOJ will continue as well as of the Ombudsman],” he added.

Among the issues that still need to be investigated include the alleged negligence concerning the ratification of the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) of the agency; the alleged overpriced ICT procurement deal; and the agency’s failure to investigate and prosecute those who are involved in corrupt practices.

Roque revealed that aside from Duque, there are also some members of the Cabinet who are ex-officio members of PhilHealth’s Board of Directors.

He further said that one more thing to look into is the concealment of records by some members of the executive committee from the members of the board of directors. 

“Kinakailangan pagsabihan ang chairman at ang members of the board including ang five members of the Cabinet na kinakailangang mas matindi ang kanilang pagbabantay sa pondo ng kabang bayan nang hindi po nawawala sa ganitong paraan [We must remind the chairman and the members of the board, including the five members of the Cabinet, that there is a need to strictly safeguard the national budget so we will not lose it like this],” Roque stressed. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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