Duque, siblings insist no conflict of interest in government deals
This file photo shows Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
The STAR/Boy Santos, File
Duque, siblings insist no conflict of interest in government deals
(Philstar.com) - August 14, 2019 - 4:46pm

MANILA, Philippines — The companies owned by the family of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III did not do business with the government agencies he has led, the siblings of the embattled Cabinet official told a Senate panel Wednesday.

Duque’s siblings, who lead the family-owned Doctors Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Educational and Medical Development Corporation, defended their brother from conflict of interest allegations during a Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on alleged corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation.

"Specific po ang instruction namin na nung umupo ang aming kapatid na wala na dapat transaction sa DOH o kung saang opisina siya naatasan,”Cesar Duque, DPI chair and EMDC board member, said.

(We have a specific instruction that when our brother assumed office, there should be no transaction with DOH or other agencies which he heads.)

“Ever since our brother, Secretary Duque, assumed office, it was already the policy of the family not to bid with any DOH contracts and it was pretty much followed, actually,” Luz Duque-Hammershaimb, DPI and EMDC president, added. 

In a privilege speech last month, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said EMDC and DPI have done deals with government agencies that Duque is connected to.

Lacson alleged the PhilHealth Ilocos Region office is being housed in a building in Pangasinan owned by EMDC, while DPI—a pharmaceutical firm—continued to bid for government contracts.

“We don’t need to learn rocket science to conclude or even suspect there’s really a conflict of interest,” the senator said in Wednesday’s hearing.

‘No conflict of interest,’ Duque maintains

But Duque insisted before the Senate panel that there is no conflict of interest.

“I assure that my personal interest in EMDC did not in any way conflict with the interest of the government. In fact, the PhilHealth Region 1 lease of EMDC property is advantageous to government,” the Health chief said, noting the lease allowed the agency’s regional office to move out of a building declared a fire hazard.

Duque added he had asked former PhilHealth CEO and president Alexander Padilla in 2013 if he should divest himself of his shares in EMDC but the latter supposedly told him this was not needed.

“[This] confirms there is no actual conflict of interest between my share in the company and the position as ex-officio member of the board,” Duque said.

Duque also said the DPI, which was founded in 1946, had been doing business with the government even before he was born.

“The DPI was not bidding for DOH contract the time I assumed government office for the first time in 2005 as Health secretary,” he said. Duque has already divested himself of his shares in DPI.

Lacson, in his privilege speech last month, said the DPI started bidding for government projects, primarily with DOH, in 2005.

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