MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has already agreed to replace Department of the Health Secretary Francisco Duque as chairman of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).
So said Senate President Vicente Sotto III after he filed a bill seeking to designate the finance secretary as the PhilHealth board’s ex-officio chair instead of the health chief.
“I just talked to PRRD, he agrees!,” Sotto stated on his post on Twitter Wednesday night.
Long time aide and now senator Bong Go said the President met with leaders of Congress, including Sotto, to discuss bills to eradicate red tape and corruption.
Under Sotto’s Senate Bill No. 1829, the finance chief will be assigned to chair the state insurer’s board and is required to “be present and act as the chairman in all board actions and cannot be represented by an alternative or a representative.”
Nevertheless, the health secretary will still be part of PhilHealth’s board “to provide necessary linkage to align” the [Department of Health] and the state insurance firm, according to the bill.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III currently serves as the ex-officio chairman of PhilHealth’s board.
The Senate president filed his bill just days after the Senate Committee of the Whole recommended the filing of criminal charges against Duque and several others over the allegedly questionable release of billions of funds under PhilHealth’s emergency cash advance measure.
The health chief has already dismissed the committee’s findings as “baseless” that were made on “mere allegations alone.”
The Senate panel had also called on Duterte to replace Duque and appoint a new health secretary “who has a stronger will to fight corruption.”
But the President expressed his continued trust and confidence to Duque despite the allegations against him.
Meanwhile, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner Greco Belgica said Duque is not yet off the hook as the Task Force PhilHealth has only investigated the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism issue in the agency, and other issues are still being investigated.
“Secretary Duque is not yet off the hook. A thorough investigation and determination of liabilities is being done in the entire PhilHealth,” Belgica told ANC in an interview Wednesday.
Belgica said the PACC, in the course of its investigation, has also found evidence that “opened more leads.”
The PACC is one of the composite teams created by Task Force PhilHealth.
Duque, who serves as PhilHealth chairman, was not included in the list of officials to be charged as recommended by the Department of Justice-led task force.
The task force only recommended the “strong admonishment” of Duque.
Belgica said the admonishment to Duque signifies that the “investigation is not yet finished.”