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Lacson questions Duque's family dealings with DOH

In what could be a "clear case of conflict of interest," Senator Panfilo Lacson bared on Monday that companies owned or connected with the family of Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III had dealings with the  department involving millions in pesos.

In a privilege speech, Lacson said a drug manufacturing company named Doctors Pharmaceuticals Inc., owned by the family of Duque, is an accredited corporation that bids for government contracts primarily with the DOH since 2005.

He said documents he obtained showed the firm cornering contracts with the DOH for the medicine supplies.  

"Mr. President, is it just a mere coincidence that Doctors Pharmaceuticals, Inc. became an accredited government contractor and supplier in the same year that Secretary Duque was confirmed by the Commission on Appointments as Secretary of Health during the Arroyo administration in 2005?" Lacson said in his speech.

"Further, Mr. President, we have noted a number of suspension and product recall orders released by the Food and Drug Administration to Doctors Pharmaceuticals, Inc.," he added, noting this happened during the incumbency of  former Health Sec Janette Garin.

"Is it not incumbent upon Secretary Duque to exercise professionalism and ethical standards by stopping all dealings of his family's corporation with the very government agency that he heads?" Lacson said.

He stressed that a public official or employee "should avoid any appearance of impropriety affecting the integrity of government services."

The senator said he raised the matter, to ensure that public funds are not "misused and abused, and that the health and safety of the public are not put at risk for personal or family interest."

Lacson said the public should be watchful of how public funds are being spent, especially as the government is about to implement Republic Act No. 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act, which will give a full spectrum of health services to all Filipinos.

The law is appropriated a budget of P257 billion a year.

"We cannot afford to lose one peso from policy failures, insurance frauds, and conflict of interests. Besides, Mr. President, these are the country's PhilHealth and Department of Health that we are talking about, not PhilWealth and Department of Wealth," Lacson said.

He called for an investigation into the matter and other anomalies hounding PhilHealth.

Duque's part

Duque denied Lacson's accusations, saying he had divested from Doctors Pharmaceuticals Inc. in 2006.

"I have nothing to do with all of these contracts since 2006," he told ANC in an interview.

Duque first served as DOH secretary from 2005 to 2010 under then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. 

Duque said he won't speculate on why Lacson was making such allegations against him but stressed that he will answer all the allegations "as factually as I can." —LDF/KBK, GMA News