Duterte says he can’t find ‘good reason’ to sue Duque over PhilHealth mess | Inquirer News
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Duterte says he can’t find ‘good reason’ to sue Duque over PhilHealth mess

/ 12:29 AM October 06, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — “For the life of me, I cannot really find a good reason to prosecute an innocent man,” President Rodrigo Duterte said in a taped speech aired on Monday night.

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He was referring to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who had been linked to alleged irregularities in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth)

“Mine is to not really prosecute just for the sake of somebody being prosecuted. My job is to see to it that the rule of law —the rules for or against a person — are followed,” the President added.

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He said he gone through the initial findings of the multi-agency task force he had created to go after officials of the state insurance firm who allegedly misused billions of pesos in COVID-19 response funds.

But he could not find probable cause to indict Duque, who as secretary of the Department of Health also serves as chair of the PhilHealth board.

“I’m a lawyer and I know what is probable cause and prima facie [evidence],” Duterte said, speaking partly in Filipino. “These are two phrases that are important before you file cases in court. Problem is, I have reviewed [the report] — a cursory reading maybe — and I have yet to find what they’re saying that Duque would be sued because he did something wrong.”

[The original phrasing in Filipino was “dahil may kasalanan.”]

Task Force PhilHealth has recommended the filing of graft charges against several PhilHealth officials, including Ricardo Morales, who had resigned as its president and CEO.

It only recommended a “strong admonition” for Duque and other members of the PhilHealth board for “the grave consequence” of their action or inaction on the state-run insurer’s funds.

But Sen. Panfilo Lacson believes that the task force has found “enough evidence” to indict Duque.

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He said that Duque, along with resigned PhilHealth senior vice president Rodolfo del Rosario Jr. and the others, could be included in the next batch of cases that the task force would recommend to the Office of the Ombudsman.

“In fact, Senate President [Vicente] Sotto [III] has it on good information that the task force has enough evidence against the others not initially charged, specifically Secretary Duque,” Lacson told the Inquirer.

He said the “inside information” was given to the Senate President by a “trusted source” in the task force.

Duterte created the task force to probe PhilHealth officials over the corruption claims that were unearthed during recent congressional inquiries.

Among allegations of corruption raised were the procurement of alleged overpriced IT equipment; a supposedly questionable release of funds under the corporation’s Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM); and the alleged manipulation of the corporation’s financial status.

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TAGS: corruption, DoJ, Francisco Duque III, Malacañang, Ombudsman, Philhealth, Philippines, Ricardo Morales, Rodrigo Duterte
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