By Ma. Teresa Montemayor
MANILA — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III denied allegations of conflict of interest over the lease of a property owned by his family to a regional office of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
In his opening statement at the joint hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon and Health and Demography Committees Wednesday, Duque clarified that his personal interest “did not in any way conflict with the interest of the government” with regard to Educational and Medical Development Corporation (EDMC) and the Doctors Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (DPI), two businesses on which his family members have a “substantial interest”.
“The PhilHealth Region 1 lease of EMDC property was advantageous to the government because it allowed the PhilHealth RO1 to move out of a building which was declared a fire hazard and continue its operations in a new office at a reasonable price. Indeed, Senator (Panfilo) Lacson himself said during his Kapihan press conference on August 1 that the rent being charged to PhilHealth RO1 for the lease was fair,” Duque said.
He stressed that the lease went through the proper procurement process required by Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act) and applicable regulations and that he did not participate in the negotiation or approval of the lease as an ex-officio member of the PhilHealth Board.
“The lease of office space of a regional office is a management matter handled by the Regional Vice President, while the Board deals strictly with policy matters. In fact, in 2013 I notified then Philhealth CEO Atty. Alex Padilla and his HEA (head executive assistant), Ruben John Basa, about my shares in EMDC. I was not ordered to divest,” he added.
Concerning DPI, Duque explained he only acquired shares in DPI in 1996 — exactly 50 years after its founding and five years before he was appointed DOH Undersecretary.
Citing the Commission on Audit findings for 2013 to 2017, Duque said he has pushed the management of the PhilHealth to address the commission’s findings since he assumed office as ex-officio chair of its board on November 6, 2017.
“I am happy to report that, notwithstanding the controversies raised, the Management Report for FY 2018 shows that the corporation has finally made a financial breakthrough. After many successive years of negative performance, last year PhilHealth posted a net income of PHP11.6 Billion and net operating income of PHP4.8 billion,” he added.
Stressing that there is more work to be done, Duque assured the public that he would continue overseeing policy reforms that will make PhilHealth a more responsive and transparent institution. (PNA)