It has been four years since President Rodrigo Duterte uttered a promise which seemed like music to the ears of some Filipinos. “I assure you, this will be a clean government,” he said during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) in 2016.
Fast forward to 2020, the ailing, pandemic-hit Philippines is facing yet another issue which some dubbed as the ‘crime of the year,’ the widespread corruption within state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, the very same organization which is supposed to help Filipinos during a health crisis.
While Duterte himself formed a task force that will investigate the anomalies within PhilHealth, critics are pointing out how the president seems to be lax about going after the agency’s high-ranking officials, particularly its former President and CEO Ricardo Morales, and Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III who has been a part of PhilHealth for 11 years already, even if both of them have been linked by whistleblowers in the anomalies of PhilHealth.
Morales had recently filed his resignation as the head of PhilHealth following Duterte’s advice, but it’s not to uphold the integrity of the ongoing investigation, but more of Duterte’s concern on the health of Morales, who bared that he’s undergoing chemotherapy after being diagnosed with lymphoma during the early stages of the PhilHealth probe.
Then there’s Duque who apart from being dragged into the PhilHealth corruption issue, has been bombarded with calls from government officials and medical experts to resign as the health chief after his “incompetence” in handling the COVID-19 situation. Duque has yet to yield to criticisms and has remained in his position with President Duterte continuously expressing support.
With this, critics can’t help but ask, how can one stay true to his promise of a clean government if he appears to be protecting the people reportedly behind the irregularities?
The PhilHealth task force is scheduled to report its findings to the president at the end of the month, and the Filipino people can only hope that those who have shamelessly pocketed public funds will be held accountable. Otherwise, this goes down in history as yet another story where the villains win.