Palace respects Senate findings over PhilHealth probe but Duterte waits for task force's "more in-depth" investigation
Malacanang said on Wednesday that it respects the findings of the Senate over its investigation on the alleged corruption in state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp.
However, President Rodrigo Duterte is more inclined to wait for the result of the probe being conducted by an inter-agency task force as this is "more in-depth" compared to the Senate investigation, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.
"We respect the recommendation of the Senate as a co-equal body," he said in an interview by CNN Philippines.
He said the Palace always welcomes an investigation in aid of legislation as it recognizes the power of the Senate and respects its finding.
"But the President himself has created a task force to determine capability of individuals and the President will have to await the formal findings of his own task force," Roque said.
Duterte earlier ordered Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to create an inter-agency task force to include the Office of the Ombudsman and the Civil Service Commission to conduct an investigation over the alleged massive corruption in PhilHealth and to conduct a lifestyle check of its officials and employees.
The task force has been given 30 days or until September 14 to come up with its findings and recommendations.
"Well, I think the task force itself will evaluate the findings of the Senate and I’m almost sure that the Senate has transmitted all the evidence it has gathered in the course of its investigation. Whether or not the task force will agree with the conclusion, I leave it to the task force," Roque said.
The Senate Committee of the Whole has recommended the filing of malversation and graft and corruption charges against Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, former PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales, resigned PhilHealth executive vice president and COO Arnel de Jesus, PhilHealth senior vice president for fund management sector Renato Limsiaco, PhilHealth SVP for health financial policy sector Israel Francis Pargas, and other officials involved in the alleged improper and illegal implementation of Interim Reimbursement Mechanism, which allegedly became one of the major sources of corruption in the agency.
Despite the recommendation, Roque, in a separate interview by the state-run television PTV4, said the President has still trust and confidence with Duque.
"Let's await the recommendations of the task force. If the task force has a similar recommendation as the Senate, so be it," he said.
"But for now, the President would defer to the findings of the task force. And you know, it's not just because he created a task force, it's because the individuals and institutions behind the task force are those tasked with the Constitution and the law to put public officers accountable for their acts. You have the Ombudsman, you have the civil service commission, and of course, you have the Department of Justice," he said.
"So, you will expect that evaluation of evidence and appreciation of evidence would be, or should I say, far more in-depth than the Senate investigation. That is why we are awaiting for the findings of this task force," Roque explained.
Morales was forced to resign as PhilHealth chief following the corruption allegations as he is also undergoing treatment for lymphoma.
Duterte appointed former National Bureau of Investigation Director Dante Gierran as Morales' replacement.
He ordered Gierran to clean the agency and bring back the people's trust in PhilHealth.
He also asked the new PhilHealth chief to reshuffle all the agency's regional vice presidents and should they refuse, they have to report to him in Malacanang. Celerina Monte/DMS