"He is one of the major causes of the PhilHealth disaster."
The hearings conducted recently by the Senate Committee of the Whole into the corruption at the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. produced numerous horror stories regarding the operation and management of this country’s national health insurer.
One of the most horrific of those stories was the role – a more apt word might be non-role – played by the ex-oficio chairman of PhilHealth’s Board of Directors, Secretary of Health Francisco Duque III. When he was not chairman, Secretary Duque was either president or a director of PhilHealth. All told, Mr. Duque was a member of the corporation’s Board of Directors for a grand total of 18 years.
The Senate has since issued a report on the findings of its hearings: The first copy went, of course, to President Rodrigo Duterte. The senators made numerous recommendations for corrective Executive Department action. The most dramatic – but not the least surprising – of these was the prosecution of Francisco Duque III and newly-resigned president and chief executive officer Ricardo Morales for various criminal and administrative offenses that included graft and criminal negligence. The Secretary of Health and Mr. Morales, a former general, have denied wrongdoing in response to the senators’ clamor for Mr. Duque’s resignation. President Duterte has stated that Duque continues to enjoy his trust and confidence.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III and his colleagues premised their recommendation that Duque be prosecuted on the belief that the Secretary, in the course of his 18 years at the PhilHealth Board, must have been made aware by his readings of PhilHealth board meeting minutes and other corporate reports and his interactions with PhilHealth personnel of the many bad things that were taking place at the national health insurer. They found it difficult to accept that after more than a dozen years of presiding, as chairman or president, over its affairs, Secretary Duque was totally clueless about everything that was happening at PhilHealth. Even if he really knew nothing about, or did not participate in, all the overpricing, document-doctoring, and irregular fund releases that were taking place at PhilHealth, he would still be liable for criminal negligence.
The Secretary of Health’s defense against the Senate’s recommendation regarding his capability may be summed up as “I had no knowledge, I was not informed and I was not a participant.” Duque is in effect saying, yes I was chairman or president or member of the board of PhilHealth during all these years, but how was I to know that all those acts of corruption and mismanagement were taking place within the corporation?
I can be convinced that the Secretary of Health has not been a party to the abominable acts of members of PhilHealth’s top management team, but the majority of the senators cannot. They refuse to believe that Duque is clean as the driven snow; they cannot accept his I-was-above-it-all posture. Mr. Duque apparently believes that all that a chairman of a board of directors does is preside over monthly meetings of the PhilHealth and then do nothing – ignore reports and other official documents, and make no inquiries about company operations, until the next Board meeting.
You’ve got it all wrong, Secretary Duque. This is not how a Board of Directors works; that is not how a chairman functions. The chairman of a Board of Directors is not a decoration.
Francisco Duque III needs to be enrolled in a Chairmanship 101 course. This will show him that presiding over the meetings of a corporation’s governing body is very serious business and that a chairman who is neither effective nor industrious can be a major contributor to the failure of an institution. Mr. Duque can fairly be tagged as one of the major causes of the PhilHealth disaster.