Duterte tells Duque: Not the time to resign
In a meeting at Malacañang last night, however, President Duterte told Duque: “This is not the time for you to resign… I have full trust in you… as of now. There is an investigation. Let it be.”
Presidential Communications Operations Office, file
Duterte tells Duque: Not the time to resign
(The Philippine Star) - September 8, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — While waiting for the results of investigations on controversies in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), President Duterte sees no need for Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to resign.

The Senate has recommended the removal of and filing of criminal charges against Duque over the alleged massive corruption in PhilHealth.

In a meeting at Malacañang last night, however, Duterte told Duque: “This is not the time for you to resign… I have full trust in you… as of now. There is an investigation. Let it be.”

Duque thanked the President for the trust.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III has expressed confidence that the Senate report may change Duterte’s view about Duque, whom he suspects is aware of the fraudulent schemes in PhilHealth.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte has not seen the Senate report.

“Let us give him opportunity to read the Senate report. If there is really a basis, why would the President not change his mind?” Roque said in Filipino at a press briefing.

“The President is a lawyer. He was a prosecutor and he knows the rules of evidence. He can decide if the conclusions of the Senate are believable or not. All I can say is rest assured, the President has the professional competence to evaluate the evidence for himself,” he added.

Among the anomalies reportedly hounding PhilHealth are the overstating of hospital claims to the health insurer, purchase of allegedly overpriced coronavirus test kits and information technology equipment, and the unauthorized release of funds to hospitals that have not yet recorded coronavirus cases. PhilHealth officials have denied involvement in irregularities and vowed to cooperate with probers.

Late last month, Duterte accepted the resignation of PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales and named former National Bureau of Investigation chief Dante Gierran as his successor. The President has ordered Gierran to cleanse the state-run insurer of corruption.

Despite being riddled with corruption PhilHealth is still entitled to funding support from Congress to ensure implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) law, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said yesterday.

Lacson issued the statement as the Senate and the House of Representatives have started their respective deliberations on the proposed P4.5- trillion national budget for 2021 that reportedly includes a request for continued subsidies to the scandal-rocked health insurance agency.

The proposed budget allocates P71.4 billion for PhilHealth next year though its officials had told senators last June it should have a subsidy of P138 billion to make sure the agency does not incur a deep deficit.

“Despite the shameless corruption in PhilHealth, the 2021 UHC budget deserves full support from Congress. But we can—and must—make our health care program more meaningful by immediately putting in jail all those who stole our money, directly or otherwise,” Lacson said.

“That said, a PhilHealth under new leadership should make sure that the funds it gets for 2021 to implement the UHC Act go to the intended beneficiaries instead of its favored few,” he said.

In the same way that Congress will contribute to the success of the Universal Health Care Act, PhilHealth and the other agencies tasked with implementing it should not contribute to its failure, the senator said.

PhilHealth acting senior vice president Nerissa Santiago told the Senate committee of the whole, which investigated alleged anomalies in the agency, that the state firm—which has about P221 billion in funds—may no longer be able to sustain operations due to the decreased collections and increased payouts for health expenses of members due to the coronavirus disease 2019.

Santiago said prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the actuarial life of PhilHealth fund was 10 years, but when the pandemic struck, its lifespan drastically shortened to just one year.

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