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Francisco Duque III cleared of charges of PhilHealth scandal after DOJ probe

It seems Health Secretary Francisco Duque III is here to stay—at least until President Rodrigo Duterte holds office in Malacañang.

News broke today that the task force commissioned by President Rodrigo Duterte has finished its investigation on the P15-billion PhilHealth Mafia scandal—and no one is happy with the results.

The 177-page report sent to the President on Monday, September 14, said the Justice Department-led task force has found that members of the PhilHealth board of directors and executive commitee “have not shown the due diligence required of them in the discharge of their duties.”

This left a lot of people disappointed as one name was left out of what Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra called an “initial report”: Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. 

Senate President Vicente Sotto III was one of the first to react to the task force findings. In an article published by, Sotto said he was “dumbfounded” at the exclusion of both Duque and resigned PhilHealth senior vice president Rodolfo Del Rosario.

When asked to comment on Sotto’s remarks, Guevarra said in a Rappler report that the task force he led was “technically functus officio”—that is to say the task force’s mandate has expired. He did say the “composite teams” of representatives from other agencies have “agreed to continue investigating in a coordinated manner, focusing on specific targets.”

What those targets are, Guevarra nor the article did not elaborate.

Netizens, other officials react

Netizens, including public officials, have reacted to the issue—both before and after the report was turned in to the Office of the President.

One of the more telling reactions is that of Senator Panfilo Lacson, saying Duterte has virtually absolved Duque of any wrongdoing.

Senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros have also spoken about Duque avoiding the task force’s recommendation. Pangilinan said he wasn’t surprised, and that “the list of corrupt and incompetent untouchables under this administration is getting longer.”

Hontiveros has asked the Justice Department to check their findings once more, saying “the three public hearings of the Senate clearly reveal failures of our health care system under Duque’s leadership.”

Netizens have echoed their statements after hearing the news of Duque dodging yet another bullet.

“I serve at the pleasure of the President”

This was Duque’s statement after initial calls came for his resignation as the Health Secretary. He is a career politician, having survived three Presidents in his 21 years of government service.

Some point towards his strong ties to the Arroyos—specifically the family of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo—as his bargaining chip. Arroyo is a close ally of Duterte.

Duque was first implicated in the PhilHealth debacle after whistleblower Thorrsson Montes Keith dubbed him as the don of the PhilHealth mafia—a group of high-level executives who are at the center of the P15-billion scandal.

This is, however, not the latest issue Duque is involved in. Duque has been “told off” of sorts by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque for not objecting to the Transportation Department’s proposal to reduce physical distancing measures in public transport.

Roque asked the health secretary—who leads the IATF—why he did not object, to which Duque said he “was not there”.

Harry Roque gives PH passing grade on pandemic response; netizens and data disagree

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