Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said Wednesday Department of Health (DoH) Secretary Francisco Duque III has stayed too long in the DoH and Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) in different capacities.
What Filipinos deserve now, according to Lacson, is a corruption-free PhilHealth and a competent DoH Secretary.
Lacson said this after Duque admitted that he has given his best but it wasn't good enough.
He has been with these two institutions since 2001.
This admission was made before the third and last in-person and virtual public hearing by the Senate Committee of the Whole on the alleged massive corruption at PhilHealth.
‘’More than public interest, public health is imperiled with Secretary Duque at the helm of DoH. Notwithstanding the trust and confidence reposed on him by the appointing authority, Filipinos deserve a good, competent, honest, and capable DoH Secretary,’’ Lacson, committee vice chairman, said.
Lacson said that in 2004, Duque was PhilHealth president when it illegally diverted P500 million in Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Medicare funds to buy PhilHealth cards bearing then President and presidential candidate Gloria M. Arroyo’s picture with the acronym " GMA (Greater Medical Access)" and "GMA Para sa Masa, Para sa Lahat."
The cards were distributed to areas where they knew they would lose against her opponent the late Fernando Poe Jr.
After winning the elections, Mrs. Arroyo awarded Duque with an appointment as DoH Secretary.
‘’Fast forward to 2020, where under new President and Chief Executive Officer (PCEO) Ricardo Morales -- and Duque as ex-officio chairman -- PhilHealth tried to collect premiums from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), notwithstanding their classification as a special sector. This amid a flawed if not perverted implementation of its Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) for health care institutions handling COVID-19 cases, gross overpricing in its procurement of IT equipment, and the doctoring of its financial statements,’’ he added.
Duque has promised to rectity the PhilHealth circular on IRM for COVID-19 health care institutions (HCIs).
Lacson said that ‘’more than rectifying the wrong implementation of the IRM Circular 2020-0007, the accountable officers of PhilHealth who were responsible for the advance payments worth billions of pesos from March to July made to unauthorized HCIs like dialysis centers, maternity care providers, etc., should be made criminally and administratively liable for malversation of public funds (or property) under Article 217, Chapter 4 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by Section 40 of RA 10951, which carries the penalty of reclusion perpetua (life imprisonment) if the amount involved is in excess of P8.8 million.’’
He pointed out that the evidence supported by official documents and testimonies provided by resource persons who testified under oath so far gathered by the Senate Committee of the Whole during the three weekly hearings are enough to indict people responsible directly or otherwise.
‘’Without tough punitive action against those involved in such shenanigans, we may never see the end of the vicious cycle of corruption that has plagued PhilHealth,’’ he added.