By Fernan Angeles
HEALTH Secretary Francisco Duque may have got himself out of the hook in the preliminary findings of the task force created by President Rodrigo Duterte himself.
But Justice Secretary said that they are not yet clearing him and other board members of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) of wrongdoing over corruption at the state insurer.
Guevarra said the task force that investigated PhilHealth did not see enough evidence against Duque to recommend him to be charged in connection with its “preliminary” findings.
However, Guevarra said that they are not yet ruling out liability on the part of Duque and other board members as they dig deeper into the allegations.
Task Force PhilHealth has so far found irregularities in the state insurer’s Interim Reimbursement Mechanism, procurement of ICT equipment, and policy for accountability.
Smaller teams of investigators are still looking specifically into PhilHealth’s legal and IT sectors and that is where the DOJ hinted possibility of dragging more people into the other schemes which form part of what the Senate described as massive corruption perpetrated by mafia members from inside the agency and outside.
“We have only focused our attention on these areas and insofar as Sec. Duque is concerned we have not seen enough evidence that would make us recommend that he be charged administratively or criminally,” he said.
“But it doesn’t mean to say that when we conduct further investigations, when we go more deeply into the evidence or other transactions or other areas of fraud, we are absolutely and totally exonerating the Secretary or the other members of the board. It all depends on what we may see further in the future,” he added.
At a Malacañang briefing, President Rodrigo Duterte said he fully trusts Duque.
“As I repeatedly said before, we will only go by the evidence presented before us. So kung meron kaming makita, so be it. Kung wala naman, wala,” he said. “Pero kung meron, meron… we’ll include him and probably the rest of the board if need be.“
Guevarra explained that Duque’s inability to vote on the PhilHealth board does not automatically excuse him.
“But that’s not really an excuse. Sayang dahil PhilHealth is a very important agency or corporation of the government and I believe that more attention, especially in the light of so many anomalies or irregularities being reported, should have been given by the secretary and the members of the board to PhilHealth,” he said.
Guevarra said he is amenable to the idea of replacing Duque as chairman of the PhilHealth board with a person who is not the Health secretary.
“I can agree with the proposal na i-replace ‘yung Secretary of Health as chair of the board — not because it’s Secretary Duque, but because of the nature of the functions of the institution itself,” he said.