Task force on PhilHealth probe to build on PACC findings

THE TASK force investigating corruption allegations against the Philippine Health Insurance (PhilHealth) Corp. will coordinate with and build on the findings of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said. The PACC is part of the task force, and the task force will make use of what the PACC has already done or build up on it further as may be necessary,he told reporters via Viber. Mr. Guevarra said since the creation of the task force on Friday, he had been in contact with PACC Chairperson Dante L. Jimenez and Commissioner Greco B. Belgica. We have all agreed that while working independently, we shall closely coordinate and collaborate with each other for a focused and targeted approach, he said.

The PACC has already submitted an initial report to the President, wherein it recommended the filing of charges against several PhilHealth officials and employees. The task force is given 30 days to submit its findings and recommendations to the Office of the President, based on the memo issued by President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Aug. 7. Given the limited period, Mr. Guevarra said they would focus on alleged irregularities that could reasonably be completed within the given time frame. Task force members have been directed to identify ongoing investigations on the agency that may be expedited and completed within the 30-day period, such as the case on WellMed ghost dialysis claims. The National Bureau of Investigation in August last year filed graft charges against 21 Philhealth officials and employees over the accreditation of WellMed for 2019 despite findings of fraud in benefit claims.

The Senate also has an ongoing investigation on the agency. In last weeks hearing, resigned PhilHealth anti-fraud legal officer Thorsson Keith alleged that the state-run insurance companys executive committee members were involved in defrauding P15 billion from the agency. Two of PhilHealth’s top officials, President Ricardo C. Morales and Executive Vice-President Arnel F. De Jesus, said they will skip this week’s Senate hearing, citing medical reasons. The Palace, meanwhile, said the task force probe will continue despite this development. In a statement on Sunday, Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque said there “is no turning back” from the investigation. “As far as the Executive is concerned, the Task Force organized by the Department of Justice, upon the instruction of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, will proceed in its mandate to investigate on the various allegations of corruption in PhilHealth,” he said. The task force is also ordered to conduct an audit and lifestyle check on PhilHealth’s officials and employees. Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Gillian M. Cortez

More foreign nationals allowed entry

THE INTER-AGENCY Task Force (IATF) handling the coronavirus response has exempted foreign nationals with Filipino spouses and their dependents from the temporary suspension of visa issuance, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced Sunday. The exemption covers children, including those with special needs regardless of age, and foreign parents of Filipino nationals, as provided under IATF resolution No. 60, dated July 30. The Bureau of Immigration (BI) may allow entry of those covered under the above mentioned exemptions starting today, 09 August, if these foreign nationals hold valid Philippine visas,the DFA said. This includes those who were previously entitled to visa-free entry and those with existing visas. Qualified foreign nationals who will be entering the Philippines have also been advised to contact the nearest embassy for the submission of documentary proof, issued by concerned Philippine agencies or foreign governments. This will be implemented by the BI and the Civil Aeronautics Board. Aside from the visa requirement, the bureau said arriving foreigners will need a pre-booked accredited quarantine facility and a pre-booked COVID-19 testing provider. Travel restrictions on entering and exiting the country were imposed as part of the lockdown measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Among those allowed to exit are foreign nationals, overseas Filipino workers, permanent visa holders and students enrolled abroad, provided their destination has no existing travel restriction. — Charmaine A. Tadalan 

More PCOO staff test positive for coronavirus

MORE PERSONNEL under the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) have tested positive for coronavirus, prompting suspension of operations in several of its agencies. The National Printing Office is among those temporarily closed with 32 of its staff infected. Work is also suspended at Radio Television Malacañang with five cases. Based on data provided to reporters as of Sunday 10 a.m., the other active cases are in the following: 23 at the PCOO main office; nine under the APO Production Unit; two from the News and Information Bureau; and five from the People’s Television Network. — Gillian M. Cortez