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'Disappointed' Hontiveros asks DOJ to 'check again' after Duque excluded from raps over PhilHealth mess

'Disappointed' Hontiveros asks DOJ to 'check again' after Duque excluded from raps over PhilHealth mess

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros expressed disappointment that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III wasn’t included in the charges recommended by a multi-agency task force against several officials over alleged irregularities in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

In a message to reporters on Tuesday, Hontiveros called on the Department of Justice (DOJ), which led the task force, to “check again.”

“While I respect the DOJ Panel, I am disappointed…I ask the DOJ to check again. We do not know if Duque is negligent, complicit or incompetent, but the three public hearings of the Senate clearly reveal the failures of our health system under Duque’s leadership,” she said.

“Kahit kaunting delikadesa sa taumbayan: I strongly suggest that Duque resign,” she added.

On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte the task force’s recommendation to file charges against former PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales and several other officials over the fund mess involving the state insurer.

But Duque, who the Senate Committee of the Whole wants to be over the “illegal” release of billions of funds through PhilHealth’s interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM), was not included in the recommendation of the DOJ-led task force.

Duque, who serves as PhilHealth board’s ex-officio chairman, has already the Senate committee’s findings as “baseless.”

Duterte, meanwhile, has already expressed his and confidence to Duque despite the allegations against him.

“The Senate, as a whole, came to an important conclusion: kasama si Sec. Duque sa mga kailangang managot,” Hontiveros went on.

“Kung totoong naniniwala tayo na karapatan ng bawat Pilipino ang kalusugan, kung totoong naniniwala tayo na karapatan ng taumbayan ang magkaroon ng malinis na gobyerno, isasama natin si Secretary Duque sa charges,” she added.

A way to clean up PhilHealth is to “go after the big fish,” according to Hontiveros.

“We can’t let them get away easily. Whether or not the President influenced the decision of the DOJ panel is something I can’t say for sure,” she said in a separate statement.

“What is important—and also bewildering—is that despite the findings and recommendations of the Senate Committee of the Whole, Secretary Duque was let off the hook,” she added.

On the other hand, Senator Panfilo Lacson opted to defer making any comments until he has read the full report of the task force.

Nevertheless, he said the Senate findings on its own PhilHealth probe “were put into good use at the very least.”

“Let me just say at the outset that obviously, the materials that we provided and shared with [Justice Secretary Menardo] Guevarra and the composite task force were put into good use at the very least,” Lacson said in a statement.

“This is good reason enough to feel gratified that we did our share in taking the first big step in making those criminally and administratively liable for the misuse and abuse of public monies accountable,” he added.

Lacson expressed hopes that the “vultures” will now be able to suffer the consequences of their “misdeeds to satisfy their greed at the expense of the sick and the unhealthy among our countrymen.”

The DOJ-led task force meanwhile received commendation from Senate Christopher “Bong” Go for its “thorough investigation” of alleged anomalies in PhilHealth.

“Hindi nagtatapos sa report na ito ang hangarin nating tuluyang tuldukan ang katiwalian sa PhilHealth.This is just part of our  ongoing campaign to remove the deep-rooted, systemic corruption plaguing our bureaucracy,” Go, chair of the Senate health committee, said in a statement.

“I expect the task force to continue its investigation on any and all anomalies in PhilHealth as well as other agencies of the government,” he added.

Further, Go said he expects that PhilHealth’s new leadership will take into account the findings of the task force in its internal cleansing to avoid any anomalies within the state health insurer.