Sotto maintains ‘disagreement’ with Duterte’s continuing support to Duque despite PhilHealth ‘anomalies’

Published October 6, 2020, 4:03 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Tuesday that he disagrees with President Duterte’s continuing support to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III despite the alleged anomalies in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

Sen. Vicente Sotto III (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Duterte on Monday defended anew Duque and said he personally does not find “a good reason” to file charges against his Department of Health (DOH) chief over the alleged anomalies and corrupt practices in PhilHealth. He described Duque an “innocent man”.

“That’s the opinion of the President. We should respect each others’ opinion, mine being contrary (to the President’s),” Sotto said in a text message sent to reporters Tuesday, October 6.

Sotto, who led the Senate’s legislative investigation on the claims of corruption and anomalies in the PhilHealth last August, has repeatedly maintained that Duque should also be held accountable for the mess in the PhilHealth.

The DOH secretary chairs the PhilHealth board of directors, which governs the policies and programs of the government-run corporation.

Following a series of hearings, the Senate Committee of the Whole had found Duque liable for malversation and graft in relation to the PhilHealth’s “illegal” releases under the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The inter-agency Task Force PhilHealth created by Duterte to conduct a separate probe, on the other hand, excluded Duque in recommending the filing of charges against PhilHealth officials, to the dismay of senators.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, head of the task force, later clarified that Duque is not yet off the hook as the investigation is still ongoing.

During a budget hearing in the Senate on Monday, October 5, Guevarra said they are not discounting the possibility that some other “big fish” and “important people” will be implicated in their findings on the alleged irregularities in the PhilHealth.

“I expect the Task force to sift through the evidence and findings rather than simply accept the opinion of other officials,” Sotto said.