Duterte ‘agrees’ to replace health chief as PhilHealth board chair – Sotto

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to a proposal that would replace the health secretary as chairman of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

This was according to Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who recently filed a bill seeking to designate the finance secretary as the PhilHealth board’s ex-officio chair instead of the health chief.

“I just talked to [President Duterte], he agrees!” Sotto wrote on Twitter Wednesday night.

The President met with leaders of Congress, including Sotto, to discuss bills to eradicate red tape and corruption, his long-time aide and now Senator Bong Go told reporters.

Under Sotto’s Senate Bill No. 1829, the finance chief will be assigned to chair the state insurer’s board and is required to “be present and act as the chairman in all board actions and cannot be represented by an alternative or a representative.”

Nevertheless, the health secretary will still be part of PhilHealth’s board “to provide necessary linkage to align” the [Department of Health] and the state insurance firm, according to the bill.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III currently serves as the ex-officio chairman of PhilHealth’s board.

The Senate president filed his bill just days after the Senate Committee of the Whole recommended the filing of criminal charges against Duque and several others over the allegedly questionable release of billions of funds under PhilHealth’s emergency cash advance measure.

The health chief has already dismissed the committee’s findings as “baseless” that were made on “mere allegations alone.”

The Senate panel had also called on Duterte to replace Duque and appoint a new health secretary “who has a stronger will to fight corruption.”

But the President expressed his continued trust and confidence to Duque despite the allegations against him.