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Dawit si Duque! Here’s why DOH chief can’t claim innocence in Philhealth fund mess

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Health Secretary Francisco Duque III may be held criminally and administratively liable over Philhealth’s advance payments to hospitals for the COVID-19 pandemic since he sits as the ex-officio chairman of the state health insurer.

Sources told Politiko that Duque’s defense that he was not present during the Philhealth board’s deliberations on the interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM) was weak. They point out that Section 18 (a) of Republic Act 7875 states that the ex officio chairman of the Philhealth board cannot be represented by an alternate or representative.

“This means the ex officio chairman must be present and act as chairman of the Philhealth board always,” a source said.

Duque’s designation of a representative or alternate to act as chairman of Philhealth board– if true– is illegal, the source added.

The source said it is also unlikely that Duque was clueless about the IRM because P27 billion was allotted for it. Of the amount, P14 billion has been released to hospitals over a span of four months.

“Surely, Duque can’t claim innocence about the IRM fund releases. In addition, the healthcare institutions which received the disbursements were under Duque’s authority as Health Secretary,” a source said.

The Senate committee of the whole recommended the filing of charges against Duque, former Philhealth president Ricardo Morales and other high ranking officials of Philhealth over supposed irregularities in the implementation IRM.

President Rodrigo Duterte, however, has cleared Duque of wrongdoing.

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