Hontiveros says Duque should be present in next Senate hearing

Senator Risa Hontiveros has urged the Senate to ensure that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III will be invited to its next scheduled hearing into the fresh corruption allegations on the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

Hontiveros said she is wondering why Duque, who has been present on the board of PhilHealth for almost 20 years, has not been included in the Senate probe.

The senator pointed out Duque served as president of PhilHealth from 2001 to 2005 and subsequently as chairman of the board again from 2005 to 2009.

“Why is the Health Secretary unscathed in all this? Isa si Secretary Duque sa mga dapat magpaliwanag nang maigi ukol sa mga alegasyon ng korapsyon sa PhilHealth (Secretary Duque is one of the persons who should be explaining the allegations of corruption in PhilHealth),” Hontiveros said during the Senate hearing.

“In fact, he has been connected with PhilHealth in various capacities since 2001. Now on his second term as Chairperson of the Board of PhilHealth, he cannot deny responsibility for all irregularities inside such a vital health institution,” she said.

Hontiveros recalled that Duque was also PhilHealth president in 2004 when a P500-million fund from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) was reportedly used to purchase PhilHealth cards bearing then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s campaign.

Such allegations, she said were raised by Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson himself.

The University of the Philippines—National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) had also raised concerns about PhilHealth’s “excesses” in administrative expenses that went beyond the legally allowable limit for years of 2004, 2008, and 2009, based on audited reports from the Commission on Audit (COA).

“If we want to clean up PhilHealth, we must go way back to 2001, when Secretary Duque was PhilHealth president. With his long history in the institution, Duque cannot feign ignorance of this systemic corruption,” she said.

Hontiveros stressed it is imperative to “expose the sacred cows” and “expose the conflicts” within the agency. “Most of all, (we need to) expose the backers,” she said.

“I am sick and tired of the fact that while people are dying from COVID and we have become the literal sick man of Asia, may mga patuloy na yumayaman at patuloy na hindi nananagot (there are corrupt government officials who continue to get rich and can get away with it),” she lamented.