Witness protection for 3 PhilHealth 'whistleblowers' sought - DOJ

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 26 2020 11:53 PM | Updated as of Aug 27 2020 01:29 AM

MANILA (UPDATE) - The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday night said it received formal requests from the Senate to place “whistleblowers” in the alleged multibillion-peso corruption scandal in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) under the government's witness protection program (WPP).

“Nasa amin na 'yung request," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told ABS-CBN News.

The Senate earlier recommended state protection to former PhilHealth anti-fraud officer Thorrsson Montes Keith, board member Alejandro Cabading and former executive assistant Estrobal Laborte.

They reportedly received threats to their lives after blowing the lid off supposed widespread corruption in the agency.

The upper chamber had also granted them legislative immunity to speak more freely on alleged corruption schemes within the state-run health insurance company.

Keith had alleged that corrupt PhilHealth officials pocketed some P15 billion in the company's funds.

Cabading, a certified public accountant, also pointed to an alleged "mafia" running corruption schemes within the agency.

Laborte, on his part, questioned the planned purchase of an "obsolete" computer network.

Amid congressional inquiries over alleged anomalies in the agency, PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales on Wednesday tendered his resignation.

President Rodrigo Duterte asked Morales to step down due to the latter's medical condition, the justice department earlier said.

Morales is currently battling cancer and took a medical leave last week, skipping a Senate hearing on alleged PhilHealth anomalies.

Duterte had refused to fire Morales, a former Army general he appointed to the post in 2019.

PhilHealth is under multiple investigation over alleged systemic corruption, including billions worth of supposedly overpriced procurement and overpayments to favored hospitals.

A Senate panel on Tuesday released findings on its PhilHealth investigation, identifying alleged members of an influential “mafia” involved in corruption at the agency and recommending criminal charges against Cabinet members from the previous administration for alleged illegal fund disbursements in 2015.