June 21, 2019
Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd on Thursday denied conflict of interest allegations arising from a lease deal, claiming he had not hidden the existence and was no longer involved in the day-to-day running of a family-owned firm from which Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) was renting a building.
As Health secretary, Duque serves as the ex-officio chairman of PhilHealth’s board, which President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this month told to resign over reports of continuing corruption and fraud at the state firm. Duque was also PhilHealth president before he became Health chief during the Arroyo administration.
“[T ingin ko, unang-una, walang conflict of interest kasi dinis-close ko naman sa aking SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth) na itong kompanya na ito ay ang may-ari ay ang aking pamilya (I think, first and foremost, there was no conflict of interest because I disclosed in my SALN that this company is owned by my family),” Duque said in a radio interview on Thursday.
He explained that when he left government service in 2015, he returned to Dagupan City and helmed the Lyceum Northwestern University, which as Education Medical Development Corp. (its corporate name) had long been tapped by PhilHealth for its main regional office in Pangasinan.
“So 2015-2016 ako ang namuno ng aming corporation at inabutan ko na ang PhilHealth bilang tenant nung korporasyon at ito ay nasa campus ng aming university (In 2015 and in 2016 I was the head of our corporation and PhilHealth was already a tenant inside the campus of our university),” he said.
Duque added that when Duterte offered the Health portfolio in 2016, he resigned from his posts of president, chief executive officer and member of the board, with his duties taken over by a sibling.
He claimed that PhilHealth had long wanted to move to a permanent location but the transfer never materialized, with the regional office again asking for a lease renewal in 2017.
Duque also claimed that the transaction went through the proper procurement process and said he did not want to void the deal because it would have affected the jobs of 200 PhilHealth employees and disrupted the state firm’s regional operations.
PhilHealth confirmed it was renting a building from the Duque family firm and claimed the deal — set to expire at the end of 2019 — had undergone the “regular process.”
“Hanggang December 31 this year na lang ang contract with them (Our contract with them will only be until December 31),” PhilHealth deputy spokesman Rey Baleña said in a text message to The Manila Times.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who claims that PhilHealth was paying P529,261.20 monthly to use the building, on Thursday accused Duque of intentionally refusing to act on the regional office’s request to transfer.
The Health’ chief’s assertions that he was no longer privy to the family firm’s transaction, the senator said, were “highly improbable.”
“Katunayan meron ding information nagsasabi ilang beses nang gumawa ng proposal ang Regional Office 1 kung saan naghahanap sila ng ibang location … At ito ay binabalewala ni Secretary Duque sa kanilang board meetings. Pinatanggal sa agenda (There is information that Regional Office 1 had repeatedly filed transfer proposals … these were ignored by Duque during their board meetings. He had these removed from the agenda),” Lacson claimed.
“At ang balita ko nga, kahapon after nang matalakay namin doon sa Kapihan sa Senado at na-expose ko dali-daling gumawa ng sulat ang PhilHealth na hindi na raw nila ire-renew … After the fact eh. Anong ibig sabihin noon? (The news I got was that after I made my exposé at the Kapihan sa Senado [media forum , PhilHealth reportedly rushed a letter stating it would no longer renew the lease contract … after the fact. What does that mean),” he added.
The senator said Duque, based on information obtained from the Securities and Exchange Commission, had yet to divest P7 million worth of shares in Educational and Medical Development Corp.
Duque’s brother, Social Security System Commissioner Gonzalo Duque, who has submitted his resignation in March, said he welcomed an investigation of Lacson’s conflict of interest allegations.
He added that the family was not “hurt” as the senator was “just misguided,” and that he was ready to face “any court, any investigation, even people who would like to promote their ambitions … and see to it that nothing is wrong with all the transactions we have entered into.”
The family, he said, was considering not extending the lease with PhilHealth as it wanted to expand Lyceum Northwestern.
FROM REPORTS BY CATHERINE S. VALENTE, GLEE JALEA, BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO AND DIVINA NOVA JOY DELA CRUZ
Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net