President Rodrigo Duterte has named Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System board member Ricardo Morales to head the Philippine Health Insurance Corp., which is embroiled in a corruption scandal in which hundreds of millions were paid for ghost dialysis treatments for members that were already dead.
In a text message, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III confirmed to multiple online news sources that the former military general would be reassigned to the state-run health insurance company.
However, Duque did not say when Morales will assume the top post in PhilHealth. The Palace, on the other hand, has yet to release his appointment papers.
Duterte initially appointed Morales to fill in the vacancy left by MWSS administrator Reynaldo Velasco in the MWSS Board of Trustees. Morales, according to his appointment papers, was set to serve the rest of Velasco’s term until June 2019. Velasco would assume the MWSS chairmanship, according to the Palace.
Almost a week ago, the Chief Executive, upon hearing about the anomalies beleaguering the agency, demanded the resignations of PhilHealth acting president Roy Ferrer and the board members.
He did not ask for Duque’s resignation, however, as PhilHealth chairman.
The Palace said the President wanted PhilHealth to have “a clean slate absent [of] any taint of irregularity in rendering services as well as implementing pertinent policies on health, including the Universal Health Care Act.”
Duque, meanwhile, said he is ready to face any investigation after Senator Panfilo Lacson said he would initiate a probe into the squandering of billions of pesos in PhilHealth funds.
“I welcome all forms of investigation. I’m willing to undergo whatever investigation needs to take place,” Duque assured.
During last Thursday’s “Kapihan sa Senado,” Lacson said there was a clear case of conflict of interest as the regional office of PhilHealth in Dagupan City in Pangasinan is housed in a building owned by Duque’s family.
Lacson said Duque is still listed in the general information sheet from the Securities and Exchange Commission
as a member of the board of his family’s corporation.
Duque denied any conflict of interest and disclosed in his statement of assets and liabilities that the property was owned by his family.
Duque noted that when he was elected as president of the Lyceum Northwestern University whose corporate name is Education Medical Development Corporation, he was already a private citizen, having left government service in 2015.
He went back to Dagupan City as a private citizen. He then learned that their building had been leased by PhilHealth, but he did not initiate the leasing.
“I did not influence PhilHealth to preferentially lease the property of my family and I was not a public official,” Duque said.
In a statement, PhilHealth said that on June 1, 2012, PhilHealth Regional Office I transferred to Educational and Medical Development Corp. building in Tapuac District, Dagupan City after the successful public bidding compliant to Republic Act 9184, otherwise known as the Government Procurement Reform Act.
At the time of the procurement, PhilHealth said this building was the only facility that provided the adequate space as required by PRO I.
The building was owned by Lyceum-Northwestern University under corporate name EMDC managed by Gonzalo T. Duque.
The lease contract has been and continues to be a beneficial arrangement for PhilHealth, the statement said.
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