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Philippines
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Lacson tags health chief in previous PhilHealth controversy amid dialysis claims mess

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Thursday reminded President Rodrigo Duterte that his ‘health chief’ was involved in another Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) controversy 15 years ago.

In a cryptic tweet on Thursday, Lacson did not name the official but was apparently referring to Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque, who was PhilHealth president from 2001 to 2004, under the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“Mr. President, your DOH secretary/ PhilHealth chairman was PhilHealth president in 2004 when P500M in OWWA funds was illegally used to buy PhilHealth cards bearing ex-PGMA’s picture with the acronym GMA (Greater Medical Access) and GMA Para sa Masa, Para sa Lahat,” he said.

Lacson was referring to the alleged illegal use of P530 million Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) funds to purchase  PhilHealth cards which were distributed nationwide.

Arroyo, who was sworn in as president after former President Joseph Estrada stepped down from office in 2001, drew flak for authorizing the transfer just before she ran for president in 2004.

Politicians called for the disqualification of Arroyo, while some senators called for her impeachment for utilizing trust funds.

In 2012, the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed two technical malversation charges against Arroyo in relation to the fund transfer, for insufficiency of evidence.

READ: Ex-president Arroyo summoned to probe on OWWA fund ‘anomaly’

READ: Malversation rap vs Arroyo dismissed

As health secretary, Duque is the chairperson of PhilHealth — the agency recently involved in the dialysis claims fiasco.

A Philippine Daily Inquirer report said that from 2013 to 2018, the government lost around P154 billion due to fraudulent medical claims and schemes.

READ: PhilHealth ‘mafia’ seen behind padded claims

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo recently said that Duterte is eyeing physician-businessman Jaime Tan Cruz to head PhilHealth, which is temporarily operating under chief operating officer Ruben Basa. /gsg

READ: Duterte eyes doc-businessman as new chief of shaken PhilHealth

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June 13, 2019


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