Press Release
August 18, 2020

Hontiveros: Duque must explain links, inaction on PhilHealth corruption mess

Senator Risa Hontiveros today said that Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III must reveal all he knows about the latest corruption scandal involving the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), and why he has failed to address the "systemic corruption" in the health agency despite warnings from other officials.

"As Health Secretary and as Chairman of the PhilHealth Board of Directors, Secretary Duque cannot wash his hands of the corruption in PhilHealth and the billions of pesos in public health funds that have been abused and misused. He can't say that he doesn't know of any irregularities, because it is his duty to know and stop such things."

During the third hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on alleged irregularities in PhilHealth, Hontiveros said that the health secretary's tepid response to the controversy is disappointing, if not highly-suspicious: "Halos isang buwan na binabayo ng alegasyon ng korapsyon ang PhilHealth pero kailangan pa ng isang Senate probe bago siya magsalita. Bakit?"

No denials, pleas of ignorance

Hontiveros said that Duque must not feign ignorance about the many allegations of corrupt and irregular practices in PhilHealth, since several officials have testified that the DOH Secretary had been informed of such acts.

She noted that at a Senate hearing last August 2019, Dr. Roy Ferrer, former acting PhilHealth president, said that Duque knew about the so-called "PhilHealth mafia" supposedly exercising inordinate influence in the agency. Another PhilHealth official, Senior Vice President Dennis Adre, also testified that he wrote a letter to Duque in February 2018, after the DOH secretary asked for advice on what measures may be taken "to deal with fraud in the agency."

Duque himself, Hontiveros said, has been tagged in several cases of irregularities involving PhilHealth, such as the lease of a PhilHealth regional office at a building owned by Duque's family - which led to the filing of a graft and plunder complaint against him in 2019.

Inaction scored

Hontiveros said that Duque, given his powerful position, should have done more to stop the many irregularities involving PhilHealth, such as the alleged anomalies in the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) and the overpricing of equipment for PhilHealth's information technology (IT) upgrade.

The senator said that Duque and the rest of PhilHealth leadership should also put a stop to other dubious practices such as the so-called "Caesarian issue" - in which doctors upcase regular pregnancy deliveries to caesarian operations to collect higher PhilHealth rates - which Duque himself mentioned to senators in 2019. "As an advocate for health and women, this practice is recklessly dangerous for women and must be stopped," Hontiveros said.

She also urged Duque to reverse the DOH's Department Memorandum No. 2020-0285, which suspended the release of Special Risk Allowance (SRA) for medical frontliners. "This was brought to my attention by a DOH nurse who is now COVID-positive. Wala pa silang SRA hanggang ngayon dahil sinuspend ng opisina ninyo. Maawa naman tayo sa ating health workers at kahit papano ay suklian natin ang kanilang sakripisyo," Hontiveros said.

"Buhay at buwis ng taumbayan ang apektado sa problema sa PhilHealth. Secretary Duque, being the DOH Secretary and the longest-serving official in PhilHealth's history, must explain why all these losses have gone unnoticed and unaddressed after all these years," Hontiveros concluded.

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