Duque sued for graft, plunder over PhilHealth rental issue
MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Francisco Duque has been slapped with graft and plunder complaints for allegedly allowing a Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) provincial office to rent land belonging to his family.
According to the complainants — parents of supposed victims of anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia — Duque was the PhilHealth’s ex-officio chair when the crime happened.
So he was accused of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019), the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials (RA 6713), and the Act Defining and Penalizing the Crime of Plunder (RA 70800).
“Being the Secretary of Health and the Ex-officio chairman of Philhealth, both public positions, respondent Dr. Duque III cannot enter into a contract, directly or indirectly, which would cause undue injury to the government,” the complainants said in their joint affidavit that they filed last Friday at the Office of the Ombudsman.
The complainants banked on the revelations of Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who said that Duque and his family owns the Educational and Medical Development Corp. (EDMC) building where PhilHealth’s Office in Dagupan City, Pangasinan is situated.
They also attached copies of the General Information Sheet (GIS) that supposedly shows Duque and other relatives as owners of the corporation.
“Respondent Dr. Francisco T. Duque III is a stockholder of Educational and medical Development Corporation (EMDC) with a paid-up capital of P61,535,000.” the complainants said. “EMDC is a corporation owned by respondent Dr. Duque III and other members of his family as per the General Information Sheet (GIS) of the said corporation.”
After Lacson made the exposé last Wednesday, Duque said he did not meddle with PhilHealth’s transactions with EMDC. He also reasoned out that he only became EMDC chief executive officer in 2015 — three years after PhilHealth started renting the space.
He also claimed to have resigned from the corporation.
The complainants claimed, however, that Duque did not divest his stock interests in the company, making him a role player even if he had resigned from his position.
“While respondent Dr. Duque III may argue that when the Contract of Lease between EDMC and Philhealth had been executed, he is ‘on leave’ as a Director/Officer of EDMC, as reflected in GIS for the period covering April 14, 2018, still, he did not divest ownership of his substantial stock interests in the said corporation,” the complainants said.
“Thus, whatever pecuniary benefit that will inure to the benefit of the corporation and to the other stockholders arising from the said contract of lease will also inure to his benefit being a substantial stockholder of the said corporation,” they added.
The beef between Lacson and Duque, which led to these issues, started when the senator reminded President Rodrigo Duterte of the health secretary’s involvement in a previous PhilHealth case.
He also lamented why the standards placed for PhilHealth officials asked to resign because of the dialysis claim mess were not applied to Duque.
Duque countered, saying that the cases against him for the alleged anomalous Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) funds during the tenure of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had been dismissed.
(Editor: Alexander T. Magno)
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