Duque: No conflict of interest in family business dealings with gov't
MANILA, Philippines – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Wednesday, August 14, that there was no conflict of interest in his family businesses’ dealings with the government when led the health department under a previous and current administrations.
Duque made the statement during a Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on corruption allegations in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth). (WATCH: Senate hearing on Philhealth, DOH corruption allegations)
Senator Panfilo Lacson had said in a privilege speech on July 29 that companies owned by the Duque family have been doing business with government, specifically with Philhealth and the Department of Health (DOH), placing the secretary in a conflict of interest situation.
The Duque family-owned companies are the Educational and Medical Development Corporation (EDMC) and the Doctors Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (DPI).
Lacson said in July that Philhealth's Ilocos regional office had a 6-year contract to lease an EMDC building in Dagupan City, from June 2012 to December 2018. Duque was appointed health secretary in November 2017.
Duque is facing graft and plunder complaints for alleged violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials over the lease contract.
He said before the Senate panel on Wednesday that the contract did not constitute confict of interest.
“My personal interest in EMDC did not in any way conflict with the interest of the government. In fact the PhilHealth Region I’s lease of EMDC property was advantageous to government,” he said, explaining that the lease allowed that Philhealth regional office to move out of a building declared as a fire hazard.
“The records show that there was absolutely nothing anomalous about the lease. It went through the proper procurement process required by Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act) and applicable regulations,” Duque said.
The health secretary said he had not divested of shares in EMDC after consulting then-Philhealth president Alex Padilla.
“I was not told to divest, which confirms there was no actual conflict of interest between my share in the company and the position as ex-officio member of the board,” Duque said.
Asked by Lacson if EMDC's decision to terminate the contract with Philhealth was an admission of conflict of interest, Duque said that it was just a business decision. He said the medical university owned by his family was “on its growth trajectory” and needed more facilities.
In his privilege speech in July, Lacson had also singled out another Duque family-owned business – DPI – saying that the company has been bidding for government contracts with the DOH since 2005, when Duque was health secretary under the Arroyo administration.
On Wednesday, Duque said that DPI had been doing business with the government “before [he] was even born and certainly well before [he] acquired an interest in the company.” DPI was founded in 1946.
Duque said he acquired shares in the company in 1996 but divested in 2005.
Besides, DPI was not bidding for DOH contracts at the time he was named health secretary for the first time in 2005, Duque said. “Based on records, it was bidding for contracts with LGUs such as the cities of Manila, Marikina, Pasig, and Makati, among others,” Duque said.
Back in July, Lacson had also called DPI a "lackey business," citing its history of noncompliance to good manufacturing practices. He even added that the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) ordered it closed in 2015.
Citing the FDA, the senator said DPI manufactured amoxicillin with the same machines it used for weight loss products.
DPI president Dr Luz Duque-Hammershaimb, the health secretary’s sister, said during the Wednesday hearing that the company had worked to rectify the errors pointed out by the FDA. – Rappler.com