Why isn’t Duque part of PhilHealth probe? – Hontiveros
MANILA, Philippines — Why is Health Secretary Francisco Duque, who acts as chairperson of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) in an ex-officio capacity, not included among the officials under a Senate investigation for alleged corrupt practices?
Sen. Rissa Hontiveros posed this question in a statement issued on Tuesday.
“Why is the Health secretary unscathed in all this? Secretary Duque is one of those who have to explain thoroughly about the allegation of corruption in PhilHealth,” Hontiveros said in her statement, her quote partly in Filipino.
She pointed out that Duque had been involved in various PhilHealth posts since 2001, way back during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“Now on his second term as chairperson of the Board of PhilHealth, he cannot deny responsibility for all irregularities inside such a vital health institution,” Hontiveros added.
Whoever heads the Department of Health is automatically included in PhilHealth board.
Hontiveros claimed that there were reports over PhilHealth’s overspending in years of 2004, 2008 and 2009, when Duque was at the helm.
She also recalled that Duque was PhilHealth president in 2004 when a P500 million fund from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) was allegedly used to purchase PhilHealth cards bearing Arroyo’s initials “GMA” as an acronym — thus doubling her campaign material in 2004.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson raised this issue in 2019, after the Philippine Daily Inquirer ran an investigative report on a dialysis clinic operating on a scheme where they accept treatment claims from PhilHealth for patients already dead.
Lacson was one of Arroyo’s opponents in the 2004 presidential race. Back in 2019, he also asked why Duque was spared in that PhilHealth scandal — to which Duque replied that the case had been dismissed.
Controversies continued to hound Duque even outside of the dialysis issue, and in some instances, even outside of PhilHealth itself.
Days after Lacson’s reminder to President Rodrigo Duterte, a group filed a graft and plunder complaint against Duque, based on the senator’s exposé that a PhilHealth office in Dagupan was renting a building owned by the Duque family.
Then in September of the same year, Lacson revealed that Doctors Pharmaceuticals Inc. (DPI) — then owned by Duque’s brother Cesar — bagged a contract supply with another government health facility, this time the National Center for Mental Health.
Hontiveros said that cleaning up PhilHealth would have to start with Duque.
“If we want to clean up PhilHealth, we must go way back to 2001, when Secretary Duque was the PhilHealth president,” Hontiveros said. “With his long history in the institution, Duque cannot feign ignorance of this systemic corruption.”
“If we want structural change, let’s shake things up. Expose the sacred cows. Expose the conflicts. Most of all, expose the backers,” she added.
Recently, Hontiveros was also dogged by controversy surrounding her previous stint as PhilHealth board member, saying that OWWA Deputy Administrator Mocha Uson was merely propagating lies about her to divert discussions of the current issue.
PhilHealth is currently in turmoil after sources revealed last July that one PhilHealth official — who eventually turned out to be anti-fraud officer Thorrsson Montes Keith — resigned due to widespread corruption within the health insurance company.
Keith said that members of syndicate within PhilHealth managed to fatten their pockets with P15 billion to schemes they perpetrated.
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