MANILA--A former anti-fraud officer on Tuesday tagged Health Secretary Francisco Duque III as the "godfather" of an alleged "mafia" in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) where the latter has held top-level positions for nearly 2 decades.
Duque served for at least 11 years either as president or chairman of the state-run health insurance firm, giving him "institutional knowledge" of the workings within the agency, said lawyer Thorsson Montes Keith.
"Maituturing ko na sya ang godfather ng mafia," he told senators investigating alleged corruption at PhilHealth, which was traced to a group of officials.
Duque approved the appointments of "almost all of the members of the mafia," Keith claimed.
The secretary replied: "I deny this. Absolutely malicious and without basis. I do not wish to dignify that allegation."
Keith also linked Duque to the P15-billion COVID-19 cash advance fund, released through a interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM), which is now under scrutiny by senators for allegedly favoring certain hospitals and even clinics not handling coronavirus cases.
He said Duque should have conducted "due diligence" as PhilHealth chairman and that the secretary was liable for "command responsibility."