Senate of the Philippines

Senate recommends replacing Duque as health chief

Bonz Magsambol
Duque says it was 'unfortunate' that he was among those who might be charged for alleged improper and illegal implementation of the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM)

The Senate recommended that President Rodrigo Duterte replace Secretary Francisco Duque III as health chief amid the corruption allegations at the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

“[A]ppoint a new Secretary of the Department of Health who has a stronger will to fight corruption within his organization and the agencies under his/her watch,” the Senate report read.

This is among the findings from the committee’s legislative probe into alleged irregularities in PhilHealth reported on Tuesday, September 1. (READ: Senate recommends criminal charges vs Duque, ex-PhilHealth chief Morales)

The Senate also recommended filing criminal charges against him and several top PhilHealth executives for alleged improper and illegal implementation of the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) “against its duly authorized purpose” to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Senate found “grave abuse of discretion or gross negligence” in releasing billions of pesos in IRM funds “without valid criteria for distribution.”

In a statement on Tuesday night, Duque said it was “unfortunate” that he was among those who might be charged. He said that he was not “present during deliberation” nor did he sign the Board Resolution of the IRM. (READ: Health chief Duque vows to ‘clear name’ after senators recommend charges)

In April, at least 14 senators called for Duque’s resignation for his “failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight, and inefficiency in performance.” But President Rodrigo Duterte “has made a decision for Health Secretary Duque to stay put.”

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 PhilHealth chairman from 2005 to 2010, and from 2017 till the present. – Rappler.com