MANILA - Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Thursday that command responsibility of PhilHealth did not rest in him, but rather its president and CEO, after senators backed the filing of criminal charges against both of them over alleged anomalies at the state medical insurer.
Duque, who is chairman of the PhilHealth board, said he did not have voting power over decisions for the agency. The PhilHealth board is also a collegial body, which means that decisions come from all 13 of its members, he said.
"Misplaced 'yung application ng command responsibility sa chairman,” Duque told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
"'Yung imputation ng command responsibility is rather misplaced. Hindi po tama. Ang command responsibility nasa President and CEO."
Duque said he also had "no problem" with resigning if an inter-agency task force found him liable for command responsibility in the irregular release of PhilHealth's COVID-19 funds.
The Senate Committee of the Whole on Tuesday said Duque was liable and should be charged criminally for "improper and illegal implementation" of the controversial interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM) of PhilHealth and for allegedly violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, alongside officials of the insurance body.
Also among those recommended charged was resigned PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales.
The IRM is a system of early fund disbursements to hospitals in case of unforeseen calamities. The Senate investigation found alleged irregularities in the release of IRM funds earlier this year, as dialysis centers were among big recipients, instead of the intended COVID-19 hospitals.
Resigned anti-fraud officer Thorrsson Montes Keith earlier tagged Duque as the "godfather" of the so-called mafia in PhilHealth – an allegation that the Health Secretary denied.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, said Duque has the "institutional memory" of PhilHealth, having sat or headed its board or served as president in nearly 2 decades.
Duque said the Senate’s report is just a recommendation for further investigation.
“Yung sinasabi nilang inupuan ko lamang ay ‘di naman totoo ‘yan. Unang-una, ako ay isa lamang sa 13 board members. 'Yung board, collegial body ‘yan. Walang isang miyembro ng board ang nagdedesisyon o nagpapasya patungkol sa policies…policy-making body ang board. Hindi naman kami nasa operations,” he said.
Meanwhile, Duque believes that newly-appointed PhilHealth chief Dante Gierran has the capability to lead the corporation.
“Wala namang kaduda-duda doon dahil abugado siya tapos CPA siya so merong value added. Meron siyang karanasan sa mga anti-fraud activities. Hindi siya pwedeng paikutan dahil marunong siya sa lahat ng anti-fraud activities ke sa financial systems fraud alam niya yan,” he said.
He added: “Bigyan natin ng panahon si President and CEO Gierran na buuin ang kaniyang team at mga plano at kung paano niya ito isasagawa.”
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