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DUQUE: I didn’t violate any Law

Francisco Duque III
Health Sec. Francisco Duque III

EMBATTLED Health Sec. Francisco Duque III has insisted that he did not violate any law and performed to the best of his abilities in addressing the alleged corruption at the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

Duque, who personally attended the ongoing House budget briefings for next year’s P4.5 trillion national budget, branded as unfortunate the continued tirade against him by Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III who questioned why the multi-agency task force probing PhilHealth did not recommend the filing of charges against the secretary.

“I did not abandon nor was I negligent,” said Duque. “I do not understand why the Senate President keeps harping on me when I have not committed any crime or violation of any law. That has been borne out in the Senate records courtesy of the Blue Ribbon Committee of Chairman Dick Gordon and even his bosom friend, Sen. Ping Lacson, who affirmed the same finding in the Senate President’s Committee of the Whole. Lacson even said in his recent press statement, ‘there may not be enough evidence to recommend criminal charges against Sec Duque’”.

“Yes, I am ex-officio chair of Philhealth but as mandated by the Universal Health Care law, I do not have voting rights and the Senate President should know that having passed that landmark law himself. Second, the Board is a collegial body, the chair does not control the Board so to say I abandoned my duties and was negligent are malicious. The problem with some legislators is they look for something to support their conclusions and start hitting at you in public. Is the Senate President now lawyer, judge and jury that if something does not suit him, he conjures things?” Duque asked.

Duque is the head of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), which is composed of 27 government agencies that was convened last January 28 and currently made up of 34 government agencies.

“There is a public health emergency and my priority was to deal with the pandemic. Is the Senate President saying that I should have focused more in PhilHealth than build capacities, review the public health supply chain and logistics, put together policies and protocols, implement the National Action Plan, set up a data hub and the like? Am I being accused by the Senate President of focusing more on the pandemic? Is that wrong? Are saving lives not the priority, Mr. Senate President?” Duque asked.

“Sen. Sotto, you are a family man so let me point this to you in clear and uncertain terms: my family is hurting already, I am sacrificing my health because of the demands of the job. I quietly do my job to the best of my ability but if I fall short, your way is to step on me and to continually hit me like a punching bag? Is this your brand of public service?” Duque added.

The Task Force Philhealth, headed by the Department of Justice (DoJ) has submitted their findings to the President last September 14, 2020.

The 177-page report contained testimony of 14 witnesses; reports and summaries of various cases whether under investigation or for resolution; documents submitted by resource persons and; reports and recommendations by other bodies including the Senate of the Philippines.