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PhilHealth Region 1 Office housed in Duque’s own building —Lacson

Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday alleged that the PhilHealth's office in the Ilocos Region is being housed in a building owned by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, the health insurer's ex-officio chairman.

At a media forum, Lacson said he has a copy of the contract of lease for the building where the PhilHealth Regional Office 1 is located, which he said is owned by Duque.

The building, he said, is located in Tapuac district in Dagupan City in Pangasinan.

"If this is not conflict of interest I don’t know what is," Lacson told reporters.

"Building mo, naka-contract of lease ka, and that is a family corporation. Educational and Medical Development Corp. Tapos you are a member of the board?" he added.

Lacson said he may initiate a Senate investigation on the issues hounding the PhilHealth once the 18th Congress opens.

"We’re barely scratching the surface. It is our obligation as public officials, as elected senators, to get to the bottom of any corrupt act," he said.

No conflict, says Duque

But in a phone call to GMA News Online, Duque argued that there is no conflict of interest on his part in the PhilHealth's lease in their family property.

He said that when he left government service in 2015 and eventually got elected as president of the family-owned Lyceum-Northwestern University under the corporate name of EMDC, PhilHealth Regional Office 1 was already their tenant.

He said he signed the contract for the lease for a year in 2016 when he was still a private citizen.

When President Rodrigo Duterte appointed him as Secretary of Health in 2018, Duque said he had to resign as president of the university and the corporation. Even then, the contract for the lease was still intact.

The contract was then renewed for 2018 and 2019, but by then, the president of the university was already his sister, Dr. Luz Duque-Hammershaimb.

Duque added that PhilHealth Region is in fact actively looking for a place where it can permanently stay. The EMDC, he said, decided not to renew the contract of lease for another once it expires on December 31 this year.

"So no basis [yung allegation]. Kasi pati si Executive Secretary (Salvador) Medialdea told me very clearly, his opinion is that he doesn't see any conflict of interest," Duque said.

WellMed controversy

The state insurer was recently embroiled in a controversy after two former employees of WellMed Dialysis & Laboratory Center Corp, a PhilHealth-accredited dialysis center in Quezon City, exposed that the healthcare facility was allegedly benefiting from claims of deceased patients.

Lacson has earlier questioned why Duque was not part of President Rodrigo Duterte's order for the resignation of key PhilHealth officials following the ghost dialysis controversy, even if he serves as the chairman of PhilHealth.

He said that even without Duterte's directive, Duque should have taken the initiative to resign.

GMA News Online has sent a message to Duque for comment on Lacson's claim but the former Health chief has yet to reply. — MDM/NB, GMA News