Health chief Duque vows to ‘clear name’ after senators recommend charges

Bonz Magsambol
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III says it is 'unfortunate' that he is among those who might be charged for alleged PhilHealth anomalies

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III vowed to cooperate in any inquiry into alleged corruption at the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) after the Senate recommended filing criminal charges against him and several top executives of the state health insurer.

“I will cooperate with any inquiry on the matter by the concerned government agencies. Certainly, I intend to clear my name,” Duque said. (READ: Senate recommends criminal charges vs Duque, ex-PhilHealth chief Morales)

Duque said it was “unfortunate” that he was among those who might be charged for alleged anomalies in implementing the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM). Duque said he was not “present during deliberation” nor did he sign the Board Resolution of the IRM. (READ: FAST FACTS: What is PhilHealth’s Interim Reimbursement Mechanism?)

Aside from Duque, the Senate panel also recommended filing charges against former PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales, who resigned due to his health condition. (READ: From military to PhilHealth: Who is Ricardo Morales?)

The Senate recommended the following charges against Duque, Morales, and several top PhilHealth executives:

  • malversation of public funds or public property
  • illegal use of public funds or property
  • violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act
  • violation of the National Internal Revenue Code
  • violation of Republic Act No. 1051 on withholding taxes

The IRM was suspended on August 13 because of the controversies. (READ: CHEAT SHEET: Alleged PhilHealth anomalies uncovered in Congress probes)

In a Senate panel on August 18, resigned anti-fraud officer Thorrsson Montes Keith tagged Duque as the “godfather” of the so-called mafia in PhilHealth – an allegation that the Health Secretary denied. (READ: Resigned anti-fraud officer tags Duque as ‘godfather’ of PhilHealth mafia)

The PhilHealth anomalies have fueled anger against the Duterte government at a time when the Philippines has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia. (READ: PhilHealth execs misspent, stole P15 billion, says resigned anti-fraud official)

Duque has served the state health insurer for a cumulative number of 11 years. A health secretary also under the Arroyo administration, Duque served as PhilHealth president from 2001 to 2005; and PhilHeath chairman from 2005 to 2010, and from 2017 till the present. – 

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.