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Duque at center of PhilHealth mess?

Alvin Murcia

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Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra over the weekend disclosed that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III as among those being investigated by the Task Force PhilHealth.

Duque was described by his former peers as “at the center” of the alleged anomalies that transpired in the state health insurance firm under his watch.

The Justice chief said the task force is focusing on fraudulent or corrupt practices at the PhilHealth — not on particular persons unless they are suspected of participation in the cases.

Duque was PhilHealth chief from 18 June 2001 to 1 June 2005 — a stretch of four years which is the longest for any PhilHealth president and CEO.

Senator Panfilo Lacson charged Duque of diverting P500 million for the distribution of the health cards which helped bolster then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s bid for a second term against the deceased actor Fernando Poe Jr.

The cards were paid for by the multi-million OWWA Medicare funds. These PhilHealth cards had the former President Arroyo’s photograph.

Guevarra did not elaborate the extent of the investigations against Duque.

With only 30 days given to the task force, he vowed to “fasttrack investigations that are almost ripe for resolution and focus on irregularities that have just been recently uncovered, but which may have been going on for many years.”

The group had several hearings with at least 10 resource persons invited.

“But it may be premature to make conclusions at this time. We have to analyze and integrate the pieces of evidence so far gathered,” Guevarra said.

The justice chief said the task force will be able to have a broad overview of the systemic problems plaguing the agency and make appropriate recommendations to President Rodrigo Duterte by the end of the period.

“We also hope to be able to file certain legal actions with the Office of the Ombudsman by then. But the deeper and more thorough investigative work and structural reforms affecting the central and regional offices will continue for a long time thereafter, “ examined Guevarra.

He added,” We hope that the new leader will be installed at PhilHealth will carry on this internal cleansing and restoration in their own. “

In an exclusive Daily Tribune interview, former PhilHealth board member Jacinto Paras accused Duque of being at the center of the alleged anomalies in the agency.

His claim was seconded by former PhilHealth presidents and CEO Drs. Celestina Ma. Jude de la Serna and Roy Ferrer.

Meanwhile, the PhilHealth’s Board of Directors appointed Arnel de Jesus as Officer-in-Charge — president and chief executive officer (PCEO) of the national state health insurer.

He will sit until a new permanent PCEO is appointed upon recommendation by the Board.

As caretaker, De Jesus vowed to carry out several reform measures that he helped initiate during the incumbency of former PCEO Ricardo Morales when he first joined PhilHealth in July 2019 as corporate executive officer IV.

Among these is the improvement of “the agency’s key processes and legacy tools in delivering the same benefit packages more efficiently and effectively as PhilHealth pivots to longer term aspirational goals of UHC.”

He also intends to “draw up new processes, new tools, (and) new structure with new human resource responsibilities adequately armed with new learnings appropriate to the(ir) new roles.”

“We cannot accomplish this by ourselves, and with wisdom and guidance from our Board, we can engage professional firms in order to accomplish the objectives of these parallel path ways,” De Jesus said.

De Jesus studied Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. He also took up Management Development Program at the Asian Institute of Management, and attended the Advanced Course on Health Financing for Universal Coverage for Low and Middle-Income Countries conducted by the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.

He earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Accountancy from the University of the Philippines in Diliman. He then placed 15th in the May 1980 CPA board examination and immediately became part of the prestigious SGV & Co, Phils., where he became known as “the Great AFJ.”

with NEIL ALCOBER

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