Duque volunteers to be investigated by DOJ in ongoing PhilHealth probe

Sofia Tomacruz
Even though he was not being probed, the health secretary asks the DOJ to investigate him

WARNING ISSUED. Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque asks the DOJ to include in its investigation his family-owned property leased to PhilHealth in Dagupan City,  Pangasinan. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Facing accusations of conflict of interest involving the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth), Health Secretary Francisco Duque has asked that he be investigated by the justice department into alleged fraud committed in the government health insurance agency.

In a statement Tuesday, June 25, Duque said he was “fully committed” to cooperating with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate and “put an end to these nefarious activities.”

“I have asked the DOJ to include myself in the conduct of a full-blown, unbiased investigation. The DOJ has my full support in this top-to-bottom investigation so that once and for all the concerned individuals are made accountable for their actions,” Duque said.

Up until he said he was willing to be investigated, Duque was not being probed by the DOJ for the state health insurance fraud.

Duque’s battles: The health secretary has been accused of  violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials over his family’s ownership of a building leased to PhilHealth in Dagupan City, Pangasinan.

The building is owned by Educational and Medical Development Corporation (EDMC), where Duque is listed among its stockholders.

In a complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday, June 24, parents of alleged Dengvaxia victims claimed Duque took a leave but did not divest himself of his shares in the company.

Duque denied the allegations of conflict of interest, saying he resigned as president of the corporation when he was appointed health secretary in 2018. Renewed contracts afterwards were signed by his sister, Dr. Luz Duque-Hammershaimb.

“Issues have been made against me in media. Let us not get distracted. The issue is not about me. The issue here is about corruption and fraud,” Duque said.

Challenges ahead: Duque and PhilHealth are embroiled in a host of allegations, arising from an Inquirer report exposing fraudulent payments made by PhilHealth to WellMed Dialysis center for “ghost” kidney treatments.

Immediately, Duque warned that the DOH would go after medical treatment facilities and officials found to have committed fraud.

“To the health care providers, I am reiterating my earlier warning: do not cheat the system nor even attempt to do it. The same goes to our PhilHealth officials,” he said.

Since then, PhilHealth acting president Roy Ferrer and board members were asked to submit their courtesy resignations. President Rodirgo Duterte also named retired army general Ricardo Morales as president and CEO of PhilHealth. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.