Duterte asks doctor-businessman Jaime Cruz to be PhilHealth president

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has offered the post of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) president and CEO to Dr Jaime T. Cruz, who heads a  food and beverage company and is also  involved in a Filipino-Chinese charity group.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said on Tuesday, June 11, that Cruz is yet to accept Duterte's offer. But the Chief Executive had spoken of his choice of Cruz during the Cabinet meeting on Monday, June 10.

Panelo was unable to give more details about Cruz, who is identified as a doctor by profession and a board member of the Philippine Chinese Charitable Association Inc (PCCAI). The organization owns and operates the Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center.

A source told Rappler that Cruz no longer practices the medical profession.

Cruz is more known as the CEO of the JTC Group of Companies, owner of Dohtonbori restaurant. During the presidential campaign in December 2015, Duterte and his running mate, Alan Peter Cayetano, attended the opening of the first Dohtonbori restaurant in the country.

Cruz is also a co-shareholder or co-incorporator with Duterte or his family members in several companies, according to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) report. (READ: Dutertes mix up data on 23 business interests)

Cruz was part of the business delegation that accompanied Duterte in his recent working visit to Japan. On the sidelines of that May trip, Cruz signed two franchise agreements with Japanese companies involved in the food business. 

Cruz was among the PCCAI officials in a meeting with Duterte in April 2017 on possible collaboration for some projects. The group, according to a Presidential Communications Operations Office press release, has projects in Davao City, Duterte's hometown.

The Palace statement described PCCAI as "particularly active in providing medical assistance to poor and underprivileged Filipinos."

Duterte had earlier "demanded" the courtesy resignations of PhilHealth Acting President and CEO Roy Ferrer and PhilHealth board members following payments to a dialysis center for kidney treatments of patients who were already dead.

Panelo said Duterte will "undoubtedly" accept the resignations.

The President wants PhilHealth to start with a "clean slate" given its mandate to help implement the Universal Health Care Law, which in its first year will cost P250 billion to implement. The UHC law is a major legislation passed during Duterte's term. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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