President Rodrigo Duterte and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III (File photo)
MANILA – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III continues to enjoy the trust of President Rodrigo R. Duterte despite being tagged by a whistleblower as the “godfather” of the mafia inside the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).
In an interview with CNN Philippines on Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the President still trusts Duque since he continues to remain in his post.
“If he has ceased to have trust and confidence, then Secretary Duque will no longer be in office because all Cabinet members serve at the pleasure of the President,” Roque said.
He, however, said it would not be long before the results of the investigation into the massive corruption hounding the PhilHealth are released.
“In any case, the ongoing investigation in the Senate is about PhilHealth and the President himself has created a task force to address the many issues and he’s awaiting the report of the task force,” Roque said.
Duterte gave the Department of Justice-led task force a month to render findings of the probe.
“I think everyone is accorded the right to due process, that’s why he created the task (force),” he said.
According to Roque, although cases were filed against Duque in relation to the distribution of free PhilHealth cards during the term of then-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, these were dismissed by then-ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales in 2012 for lack of merit.
He also defended Duque, who currently sits as PhilHealth ex-officio chairperson, from criticism that he was wearing too many hats.
“In a time of the pandemic, you could imagine that the Secretary of Health will be the busiest person in the country. I think his designation in PhilHealth is because he is ex-officio (chairperson) as Secretary of Health and his designation as IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) chair is also because he is Secretary of Health. So in other words, although there are many hats, it is still in connection with the fact that he remains to be the Secretary of Health,” Roque said.
During a recent Senate hearing, former PhilHealth anti-fraud officer Thorrson Montes Keith told senators that Duque could be considered the “godfather” of the PhilHealth mafia.
He said Duque was responsible for approving the appointment of executive officials who are allegedly part of the mafia.
Duque denied the allegation but admitted that there could be some syndicates involved in anomalies within PhilHealth.
Asked if he was in favor of abolishing the PhilHealth amid allegations of corruption, Roque said he personally pushed for the abolition of the state insurer in filing his version of the Universal Health Care when he was still a congressman.
“Well, in my version of the Universal Health Care, which was actually approved by the House (of Representatives’) Committee on Health when I sponsored and authored the Universal Health Care, I did abolish PhilHealth. I wanted to replace it with the National Health Service patterned after the UK because I borrowed anyway Universal Health Care after the UK legislation and the Thai legislation,” he said.
Roque said he was surprised to find out that the final version of the legislation retained the PhilHealth and even gave it more powers but he opted to push for its passage to prioritize the giving of affordable and quality health care to all Filipinos.
Earlier, he said whether or not to push for the abolition of PhilHealth would depend on Congress. (PNA)