Composite teams given 30 days to further probe PhilHealth mess – DOJ

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2020   •   388

MANILA, Philippines – The composite teams conducting investigation into the allegations of corruption within the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) have been given 30 days to further probe the issue, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said Wednesday.

In a statement, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said they will ask the teams to finish their investigations into PhilHealth’s IT and legal sectors in a month.

“Then we’ll prepare the complaints if there’s enough evidentiary basis,” he added.

The composite teams consist of members from the DOJ, National Bureau of Investigation, Anti-Corruption Commission, Anti-Money Laundering Council, and Office of the Special Assistant to the President, with the help of the Commission on Audit.

Guevarra said the timeline will begin when recently-installed PhilHealth president and CEO Atty. Dante Gierran formally assumes his post after he takes his oath on Wednesday.

The Task Force PhilHealth led by Guevarra already handed its probe results to President Rodrigo Duterte last Monday.

The report contained findings into the thousands of unfiled cases against erring PhilHealth employees and health care institutions, as well as recommendations on the filing of complaints against several officials of the agency, including its former chief Ricardo Morales.

Some lawmakers have expressed dismay over the exclusion of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who sits as PhilHealth chairman by virtue of his position, from the list of officials liable for the PhilHealth mess.

But Guevarra earlier stressed that other officials were spared from the list because the investigation is still ongoing.

Meanwhile, the camp of Morales assured that the former PhilHealth chief is ready to face the complaints relating to issues hounding the state insurer.

They also maintained that Morales had no hand in the alleged corruption within the agency.

“Our client is a man of integrity and completely denies any wrongdoings and the criminal charges against him,” Atty. Arnedo Valera, Morales’ legal spokesperson, said.

“His attorneys… will vigorously defend Gen. Morales and will appropriately respond to the criminal complaints either before the Department of Justice and or before the Ombudsman,” he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

DILG backs proposed community service as penalty for quarantine violators

Robie de Guzman   •   April 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Tuesday expressed support for the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) proposal to impose community service instead of jail time as a penalty for those who violate quarantine protocols against COVID-19.

DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya issued the statement during the Laging Handa public briefing when asked about Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s suggestion.

Malaya, however, clarified that quarantine violators are not immediately arrested under the existing policy. He said violators are usually given a warning for the first offense and are asked to pay a fine for the second offense.

The DILG official also said that the local government units are the ones that set their own penalties for quarantine violations through local ordinances.

“Let me first say that our policy is not to go straight to arrests. In fact, most of the time, the first offense only yields a warning, and the second offense is usually a fine” Malaya said in a mix of Filipino and English.

“These penalties are within the scope of ordinances passed by cities and municipalities and signed by mayors. So, these are not controlled by the National Task Force of Inter-Agency Task Force,” he added. “Having said that, we support this initiative, and if our councilors are willing to amend their ordinances, that’s well and good. It might be better to have [violators] do community service instead.”

Guevara, in a Palace press briefing on Monday, said he has recommended to the Inter-Agency Task Force not to arrest or detain those who continue to violate quarantine protocols, and instead impose community service as a punishment.

The DOJ chief said the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act penalizes “non-cooperation” of persons identified as having a notifiable disease and those who are supposed to report it.

He, however, said that the law was not specific when it came to actual violations.

“Yung statutes like Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases, meron doong provision on non-cooperation, but you know medyo hindi siya shoot na shoot eh, hindi sya talagang very exact to the actual violation,” he said.

“I also recommend that in the enforcement, the stricter enforcement of the ordinances, that LGUs consider the possibility of imposing na lamang the penalty of community service for those who will continue to violate our ordinances rather than imprison or rather than putting them in jail or fining them, eh kasi talaga ngang mahirap na ang buhay sa ECQ,” he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

DOJ orders NBI to probe Calbayog mayor’s slay

Robie de Guzman   •   March 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice on Tuesday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a probe into the shooting incident that killed Calbayog City, Samar Mayor Ronaldo Aquino.

In the Department Order No. 057 dated March 9, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra directed the NBI to look into the incident that claimed the lives of Aquino and his three aides.

Guevarra cited the provisions of Republic Act 10867 or the National Bureau of Investigation Reorganization and Modernization Act in authorizing the agency to undertake the investigation.

“…[T]he NBI, through officer-in-charge Eric Distor, is hereby directed and granted authority to conduct an investigation on the shooting incident in Calbayog City, Samar on March 8 which claimed the lives of Mayor Ronaldo Aquino of Calbayog City and other persons,” the order stated.

The investigating body was also directed to file appropriate charges against all persons involved and found responsible for any unlawful act in connection with the case, if evidence warrants.

The NBI has been given ten days to submit reports on the progress of the investigation to the Office of the Secretary of Justice.

Initial police report showed that Mayor Aquino and his aides were killed after a gunfight with armed men riding another vehicle on Monday afternoon in Barangay Lonoy, Tinambacan District in Calbayog.

The mayor and his aides were aboard their vehicle going to the northern part of Calbayog City when they thought they were being tailed by another vehicle.

One of Aquino’s security details allegedly fired at the other vehicle and its passengers retaliated.

The passengers of the other vehicle turned out to be members of the Philippine National Police Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Group.

Aquino, his driver and a security escort were killed in the incident while another aide was rushed to a hospital.

A police officer was also killed while another was injured.

Guevarra earlier told reporters that the investigation has been referred to the NBI “for the simple reason” that the other party involved is the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The PNP, for its part, said it has formed a special task group to look into the incident as well as the involvement of police officers.

DOJ orders NBI to probe PNP-PDEA ‘misencounter’

Robie de Guzman   •   February 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has directed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct its own probe into the shooting incident that transpired between members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) on Wednesday night.

The shooting incident between operatives of the PNP and PDEA occurred near a mall along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City.

“This is separate and distinct from the probe to be conducted by an ad hoc joint PNP-PDEA board of inquiry earlier announced by PNP chief Debold Sinas,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a message to reporters.

“I gave them (NBI) 10 days to submit a report,” he added.

Sinas earlier said that a joint PNP-PDEA Board of Inquiry has been created to determine what transpired and who should be held liable for the incident.

The PNP chief appointed the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) as the lead investigating body, while the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) has been designated “to speak on any updates from the PNP in order to keep the public updated with accurate and relevant information.” – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

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