Hontiveros welcomes Duque’s move to attend Senate hearings on PhilHealth anomalies

Published August 14, 2020, 1:38 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Friday welcomed Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III’s decision to participate in the next scheduled hearing of the Senate investigation into reported anomalies in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

Sen. Risa Hontiveros(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Hontiveros said it is imperative that Duque, being the chairperson of the agency, shed light on the numerous allegations of corruption in PhilHealth.

“He should help us shed light on the numerous allegations of corruption in PhilHealth,” Hontiveros said in an online press briefing.

“Kasi parang may mga grupo-grupo o mga mafia sa loob ng PhilHealth at siya bilang may institutional memory, gusto kong malaman kung ano ang extent ng kanyang involvement o kaalaman sa mga modus sa loob, ( Because there seems to be factions or mafia within PhilHealth and as one with institutional memory, we want to know the extent of his involvement or possible knowledge of the modus inside the agency),” she said.

“Bilyon-bilyong piso at mukhang may sistema na mismo ang nakawan sa loob ng PhilHealth. Hindi ito posible kung walang mafia o mga grupo sa loob. Hindi ito posible kung wala rin silang mga backer (Billions of pesos and I think there seems to be a system of fraud within PhilHealth. This is not possible if there is no group of mafia inside. This won’t also be possible if they do not have any backer),” she added.

Hontiveros said Duque was appointed PhilHealth president in 2001 to 2005. During his term, the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged the excesses in administrative expenses in the year 2004 amounting to P490-million.

Also during this time, the senator recalled that Duque was involved in the alleged misuse of P530-million Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) funds which was reportedly used for the distribution of free PhilHealth cards in support of the candidacy of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In 2005 to 2009, the senator said Duque became DOH secretary and chairperson of PhilHealth. During this period, COA was also able to flag excesses in the agency’s administrative expenses in 2008 and 2009 for P80-million and P200- million, respectively.

He became chairperson of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and a member of the PhilHealth Board in 2010 to 2015. The senator recalled that during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on PhilHealth last year, information about a “mafia” within PhilHealth allegedly circumventing reassignment due to delayed decisions by the CSC surfaced.

In 2017, Hontiveros said Duque returned as Health secretary and chairperson of PhilHealth. But later in 2018, COA again flagged excessive and unauthorized representation allowance and transportation allowance (RATA) of the agency worth P7.898-million.

Subsequently, in June 2019, she said graft and plunder complaints were filed against Duque for allegedly allowing a PhilHealth provincial office to rent land belonging to his family, a matter bared by Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson himself.

It was Lacson who exposed the controversy that Duque and his family owned the Educational and Medical Development Corp. (EMDC) building where the PhilHealth’s office in Dagupan is situated.

“Kaya hindi pwedeng tahimik si Sec. Duque dito sa mga alegasyon at isyu ng PhilHealth kasi halos dalawang dekada siyang nakaupo sa liderato nito (That’s why Secretary Duque cannot just be silent on these allegations and issues surrounding PhilHealth because he’s been part of its leadership for almost two decades),” she said.

“I am looking forward to the attendance of Secretary Duque sa susunod na hearing sa PhilHealth (in the next hearing on PhilHealth). Gaya ng nauna kong sinabi, dapat siyang magpaliwanag dahil siya ang may institutional memory sa ahensya (As I said, he should do some explaining because he’s the one with institutional memory in the agency),” the lawmaker said. [Hannah L. Torregoza]