President Rodrigo Duterte (left) and Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III | PCOO PHOTO

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night defended Health Secretary Francisco Duque III anew from allegations involving him in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth) corruption scandal.

Duterte formed a task force to investigate the alleged corruption within PhilHealth last August.

In the task force’s initial findings released in September, Duque was excluded from the list of officials recommended to be charged criminally and administratively over supposed irregularities in handling the state insurer’s funds.

It only urged Duterte to “strongly admonish” members of the PhilHealth board and remind them of “a grave consequence of their action or inaction to the PhilHealth fund, to the government and its coffers and to the interest of the ordinary people who rely on PhilHealth assistance.”

While the results dismayed many senators, Duterte said he had perused the task force’s initial findings and found no reason to arraign Duque.

“I have read the findings and for the life of me, I can’t really find a good reason to prosecute an innocent man,” he said in a televised address.

As secretary of the Department of Health, Duque serves as ex-officio chairman of PhilHealth’s board of directors.


The Senate Committee of the Whole earlier recommended filing malversation and graft and corruption charges against Duque for “grave abuse of discretion or gross negligence in ascertaining the [interim reimbursement mechanism] beneficiaries without valid criteria for distribution.”

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, chairman of the committee, said Duque’s negligence was enough to implicate him.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday said the task force’s probe was not yet completed and more PhilHealth officials would face charges.

The Office of the Ombudsman has yet to conclude its own investigation into PhilHealth. John Ezekiel J. Hirro