MANILA - Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Tuesday he will cooperate on the investigation of alleged anomalies in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), and vowed to clear his name in the multibillion-peso corruption scandal plaguing the agency.
"As I have previously stated, I will cooperate with any inquiry on the matter by the concerned government agencies. Certainly, I intend to clear my name," he said, in response to the Senate's recommendation of filing criminal charges against him and other officials in the state health insurer.
The Senate Committee of the Whole earlier said Duque should be held liable for the improper and illegal implementation of the interim reimbursement mechanism, which allowed the agency to provide advance payments to hospitals tending to COVID-19 patients.
The health chief, an ex-officio member of PhilHealth's board of directors, should also be made answerable for "malversation of public funds" and for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the senators said.
In his statement, Duque said it was "unfortunate" that he was accused of being involved in the alleged irregular disbursement of large advance payments to hospitals for COVID-19-related expenses.
"As a non-voting Chairman under the Universal Health Care Law, it is unfortunate that I was impleaded in the alleged IRM (interim reimbursement mechanism) irregularities when I was not even present during the deliberation nor did I sign the Board Resolution," he said.
The IRM allows the agency to provide advance payments to hospitals tending to COVID-19 patients, but Senate found that some P231.15 million has been also disbursed to dialysis centers and maternity clinics, which were not catering to virus patients.
PhilHealth earlier said that COVID-19-related expenses would only amount to P3.3 billion, but it placed a P26.8-billion budget for the global pandemic, the Senate also discovered.
As the country continues to grapple the coronavirus, which has infected over 224,000 people in the country, Duque said it was not the best time that 2 branches of government were at loggerheads.
"This is not the best time for the Executive to have a difference with the Legislative branch, but 2 weeks ago I went to the Senate to shed light on the issues based on my personal knowledge," he said.
The health chief is also undergoing investigation before the Office of the Ombudsman on the Department of Health's response to the crisis.