Duterte orders DOJ to form task force to probe alleged corruption in PhilHealth

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 7, 2020   •   190

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to form a task force to investigate the alleged corruption in PhilHealth.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Friday (August 7) said the President already issued a memorandum to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to form a task force and file appropriate charges against officials proven to be involved in corruption.

The task force will also have the authority to audit PhilHealth finances, conduct lifestyle checks, and impose preventive suspensions of officials. The DOJ can also require other government agencies to assist in the investigation.

Si President is exasperated. Gusto na niyang matigil itong korupsyon sa PhilHealth, at gusto na niya na may ngipin itong task force na binuo niya. Ang mensahe po sa mga buwaya ng PhilHealth, tapos na po ang maliligayang araw ninyo diyan (The President is exasperated. He wants to curb the corruption in PhilHealth and he wants this task force to have teeth. To the corrupt officials in PhilHealth, your happy days are over),” he said.

The task force will have 30 days after its formation to submit its findings and recommendation to the Office of the President.

Meanwhile, Malacañang assures that the government will not allow the PhilHealth funds to run out. This is amid reports that the agency’s actuarial life is only for one year, instead of 10 years.

Kung hindi po sapat, gbyerno po talaga ang magdadagdag ng budget galing sa kaban ng bayan (If funds will not suffice, the government will supplement the budget),” Roque said. AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2020

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)

Pemberton case leaves lessons to ponder on for future of VFA – DOJ

Robie de Guzman   •   September 14, 2020

US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton

MANILA, Philippines – The case of convicted killer US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton should be taken into account in reviewing the future of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States, Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

Guevarra made the remark following the deportation of Pemberton on Sunday morning, a few days after he was granted absolute pardon by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Justice chief believes that the issue also left lessons to ponder on regarding the administration of criminal justice in the country, as well as the presidential constitutional powers.

“I am relieved to see the end of Pemberton episode. Though attended with intense conflict, it has provided valuable insights and lessons to ponder on regarding the future of the visiting forces agreement, the administration of criminal justice, and the exercise of the president’s constitutional powers,” he said in a statement.

Pemberton departed from the country aboard a military aircraft bound for the United States at 9:14 a.m. on Sunday.

The Bureau of Immigration said that as a consequence of his deportation, Pemberton has been placed on the agency’s blacklist and can no longer return to the country.

“Perpetually banned na siya from entering the country and any attempt in the future to enter the Philippines hindi po siya papayagang pumasok. He will be excluded at pababalikin kung saan siya nanggaling,” said BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval.

The US serviceman was convicted of homicide for killing Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude inside a motel in Olongapo City in 2014.

Duterte granted him absolute pardon after an Olongapo court ordered the Bureau of Corrections to recompute the time that Pemberton served and to determine if he is eligible to avail the good conduct time allowance rule. – RRD (with details from Correspendent Dante Amento)

DOJ sees no problem with BI move to deport Pemberton

Robie de Guzman   •   September 9, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice sees no problem in having US soldier Joseph Scott Pemberton deported from the country after being granted pardon.

“If there was already a final deportation order against Pemberton, and he is not contesting it, then so be it. Either way, he’s out,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Wednesday in a message to reporters.

Guevarra’s remark came after the Bureau of Immigration (BI) announced it will implement its deportation order against Pemberton once he is released from detention and turned over to them by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente earlier said the deportation order was issued against Pemberton in 2015 for being an undesirable alien when he was sentenced for the 2014 murder of Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude.

The BI chief explained that his request will enable the bureau to complete the deportation proceedings that was initiated against the American convict.

He also stressed that turning over alien convicts who have finished serving their prison sentences so they could be sent back to their country of origin is a standard operating procedure for BuCor.

Foreign nationals who are up for deportation are required to submit clearances from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and regional trial court as proof that they have no more pending criminal or civil cases.

Once these requirements are submitted, the deportee’s flight will then be arranged and scheduled by the BI.

Morente earlier said they will await instructions from Guevarra for guidance on how we will implement the deportation order in a manner that is within the prescribed laws of the country. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

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