Lacson accuses Duque of ethics breach

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 29 2019 06:55 PM

Sen. Panfilo Lacson and Health Secretary Francis Duque III. ABS-CBN News/file

Duque says no conflict of interest because he divested 

MANILA - Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Monday said he opened yet another “can of worms” after discovering that the firm owned by the family of Health Secretary Francis Duque III bagged millions of pesos from several government contracts from the Department of Health.

Lacson said he discovered that the Duque family-owned Doctors Pharmaceuticals Inc. (DPI) based in Taguig bagged government contracts in 2016 and 2017.

He said he discovered copies of contracts, one of which amounted to over P3 million, awarded to DPI.

“As a former chairman of the Civil Service Commission, Secretary Duque more than anyone of us should know by heart the code of conduct,” Lacson said in a privilege speech.

“Walang personalan (Don't take it personally). I raised this question to ensure that public funds are not misused and abused.”

Lacson raised red flags over the government contracts bagged by the Duque family-owned firm not only because it was a clear case of conflict of interest, but because the firm's supposedly tarnished reputation.

He said the DPI started bidding for government projects in 2005, the year Duque was confirmed as health secretary under the Arroyo administration.

The Food and Drug Administration in 2015 ordered the DPI to stop selling its medicines due to “nonconformance to pharmaceutical inspectorate cooperation scheme-good manufacturing practice,” Lacson said.

Despite the cease and desist order, Lacson said the DPI still managed to acquire a license to operate as a drug manufacturer in April 2016.

“This is a case of setting aside health for wealth,” Lacson said.

“When the pharmaceutical company that is awarded a contract to supply medicines to the DOH does not observe good manufacturing practice, does this not pose a threat to the health and safety of our public?”

DUQUE HANDS OFF ON DEALS

Duque, for his part, said he "had nothing to do with all of these contracts" because he divested from the company in 2006. 

"I divested so how can there be conflict of interest? That is pure conjecture and speculation. Basta sa'kin naaayon sa batas na (For me it's under the law that) you have to divest if you know there is a potential conflict of interest," he told ANC's Headstart on Monday.

The health chief also said he was not involved in the affairs of the family firm during his time as a private citizen as he was "too busy" managing his family's university in Dagupan.

"I was too busy in Dagupan. We have a university in Dagupan where I served for almost 2 and a half years, that was what consumed my time. This [DPI] is in Taguig, so walang time (there's no time)," he said.

Lacson earlier called out Duque after learning that the regional office of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. in Pangasinan is renting out a building that is owned by Duque's family. Duque is the ex-officio chairman of the PhilHealth board of directors.

Duque said he will answer Lacson's allegations "as factually as I can."

"I respect his (Lacson's) opinion, I respect where he's coming from. I know that he wants to fight for good, accountable, transparent governance. I have no doubt about it," he said.