DoH secretary says he did not misuse OWWA funds

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Francisco T. Duque

DEPARTMENT of Health (DoH) Secretary Francisco H. Duque III denied claims made by Senator Panfilo M. Lacson that he was involved in the misuse of government funds during his term as PhilHealth president, saying that these were resolved in his favor years ago.

“I would like to address an issue that is being revived again. I was accused of being involved in the alleged misuse of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) funds. For the record and information of the honorable Senator Panfilo Lacson, this case was already dismissed by the Ombudsman in 2012 and dismissed with finality by the Supreme Court in 2013 due to the lack of evidence,” Mr. Duque said in a statement released on Friday.

Mr. Lacson said in a social media message on Wednesday that the Mr. Duque, when sitting as PhilHealth president in 2004, illegally used more than P500 million in OWWA funds to purchase and distribute PhilHealth cards during the administration of Former President and outgoing Speaker of the House, Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Mr. Lacson did not mention Mr. Duque’s name in his social media post, although his message called on President Rodrigo R. Duterte to mind the DoH Secretary, who also currently sits as PhilHealth Chairman.

The senator’s statements come amid reports of alleged fraud by current PhilHealth officials and health providers over ghost kidney dialysis paid for by PhilHealth. Philhealth’s President, CEO, and six other officials tendered their courtesy resignations soon after the news broke.

Mr. Duque was appointed as DoH Secretary in 2018, during which time the Commission on Appointments (CA) dismissed the the issue linking Mr. Duque to the misuse of OWWA funds. Mr. Lacson sat as a member of the CA at the time of Mr. Duque’s appointment as DoH Chief.

“It is my sincere hope that information like this that may damage one’s reputation is verified first before being narrated to the public to avoid confusion. It is also my sincere hope that this puts the issue to rest. I have been in public service for more than two decades and I have never been convicted of any wrongdoing, simply because I hold integrity as my core principle,” Mr. Duque said. — Gillian M. Cortez