Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to review its recommendation not to sanction Health Secretary Francisco Duque III over the alleged irregularities in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

risa - ‘Review findings on account of health system ‘failure’ under Duque,’ Hontiveros urges DOJ
Sen. Risa Hontiveros
(Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

“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 appealed.

Hontiveros said that while she respects the DOJ in coming up with its own recommendations about the controversies in the PhilHealth, she said she was also “disappointed” that Duque was excluded from its proposed charges against officials despite the Senate finding him equally accountable for the reported anomalies.

“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 Sec. Duque sa charges (If we truly believe that Fiilpinos have the right to access proper health services, if we truly believe that our countrymen have the right to have a clean government, we would have included Sec. Duque in the charges),” the opposition senator said in a text me.

In a separate statement, Hontiveros said including the Department of Health (DOH) Secretary in the officials to be sued would help in addressing the problem of corruption in the state health insurer.

“If we want to clean up PhilHealth, we have to go after the big fish. And we can’t let them get away easily,” she said,

“Whether or not the President influenced the decision of the DOJ panel is something I can’t say for sure. What is important — and also bewildering — is that despite the findings and recommendations of the Senate Committee of the Whole, Sec. Duque was let off the hook,” she lamented.

Hontiveros reiterated the appeal of her colleagues. “Kahit kaunting delikadesa sa taumbayan (Show a little delicadeza to our people): I strongly suggest that Duque resign.”

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier slammed Duque’s vindication in the Task Force report and maintained the latter should be charged at least for Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code. The provision says that public officers are likewise accountable and guilty for the misappropriation or malversation of public funds or property under their offices.

Duque had insisted that he had nothing to do with the irregularities in the PhilHealth, particularly in its questionable cash advances to some health care facilities, and said he was a non-voting chairman of its Board.

Existing laws and regulations says the PhilHealth Board of Director governs the management of the national health insurance funds and that it monitors the implementation of the corporation’s programs.

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