FIRING LINE: The joke’s on WHO?

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

Suddenly, we have Health Secretary Francisco Duque III back on his feet and standing tall again.

Why wouldn’t he be? He’s head above water in the P15-billion Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) anomaly. Criminal charges have been recommended against PhilHealth’s highest officials, and his name just rolled off the list.

Duque keeps his post in the Department of Health (DOH). Then, he gets a pat on the back from Malacañang for his election as the new chairman of the Regional Committee for Western Pacific of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Well, isn’t Duque a prime pick for that post because the WHO regional office is situated in Manila? Who among his peers would take the risk of traveling to the Philippines so often to assume that position?

But, good job to Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque for putting the spin on it, saying it was a vote of confidence from the WHO for Duque – as if he is credited for the country’s efficient response to the pandemic.

I agree more with Senator Panfilo Lacson whose impression of Duque has not changed with his new title. Lacson said: “The Senate has found inefficiency in his performance… and conflict of interest. Up-close, we saw a need to replace him as head of the DOH.”

Include that in your resumé, Mr. Secretary.

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One hot talk-of-the-town lately is a blind item by one of our spies about a lawyer-couple who’s been parading their alleged unexplained wealth.

The man heads a department in the local government of one of the beautiful places in Rizal province. His wife practices and teaches law and has a knack for posting their grandiose living and jet-setting exploits abroad on Facebook.

They own a posh residence in an exclusive subdivision, two luxury condos, and a beachfront property in Western Visayas for when they retire. And I forgot to mention the Jaguar and Range Rover in the garage on top of their other vehicles, as well as their art collection. Magnifique!

The thing is, Mr. Public Official’s salary, even if helped by his law-proficient wife’s income, cannot afford all that. But since he’s a solid appointee of the powers-that-be, he easily controls everything in his department. The air up there must’ve gotten to his head.

Insiders say he can’t gain such wealth unless through misdeeds in his office of public trust – the sort of underground stuff punished by a lifetime in jail.

But I guess we’ll never know the whole truth about that because the Office of the Ombudsman just gave people like him a pass by restricting access to their Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) without their consent.

Click “like,” if you think our entire Ombudsman team should be replaced. Click “share” if you think you know this lawyer-couple by their posts and deeds.

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