Francisco Duque III

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Francisco Tiongson Duque III (born February 13, 1957) is a Filipino physician and government official. He is currently the secretary of the Department of Health under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. He previously held the same position from 2005 to 2009, during the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Early life and education

Duque received his high school education from the Lourdes School of Quezon City, graduating in 1974. He earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology in 1978 from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) and a doctor of medicine degree in 1982 from the UST Faculty of Medicine and Surgery.[1] He went on to study pathology in Georgetown University in the United States, graduating with a master’s degree in 1987.[1] Duque underwent training in women’s health in Georgetown from 1985 to 1988. He also completed a post-graduate course on executive education at Harvard School of Public Health, in 1992.[1]

Early career

From 1989 to 1995, Duque was the dean of the College of Medicine of Lyceum-Northwestern University, which his parents, Francisco Duque Jr. and Florencia Tiongson Duque, founded. He then became the concurrent administrator and executive vice president of the Lyceum-Northwestern University General Hospital. He vacated both positions in 2000.

Government career

PhilHealth president (2001–2005)

In June 2001, Duque was appointed president of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Towards the end of his stint as president of PhilHealth, 5.9 million families or 29,901,890 individuals became beneficiaries of the insurance corporation through its National Health Insurance Plan (NHIP).[2]

First stint as secretary of health (2005–2009)

In June 2005, President Arroyo tasked Duque to head the Department of Health. During Duque’s time as DOH secretary under Arroyo, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized the Philippines as one of three nations whose risk communication strategies against the AH1N1 were deemed excellent.[3]It was during his time as secretary when DOH became one of the principal agencies that quickly responded to various health emergencies and disasters such as the Guimaras oil spill (2005), the Leyte Guinsaugon landslide (2006), St. Andrew's School mercury spill (2006), melamine-laced milk products (2008), Typhoon Ondoy (2009) and the Ebola Reston in pigs (2009).

Chairman of the Civil Service Commission (2010–2015)

Duque was appointed chairman of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) in January 2010. He became vice-chairman of the Career Executive Service Board (CESB) in March 2010. Under Duque’s leadership as president of the CSC, the agency received the Governance Trailblazer Seal for garnering the highest compliance rating, 9.03, at the Performance Governance System Revalidada in October 2011.[4]

GSIS president and second stint as secretary of health (2017–present)

President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Duque chairman of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) in 2017. He had not completed a year in the GSIS when Duterte appointed him secretary of the DOH. Duque assumed the position in November 2017.[5]

Conflict of interest allegations

In a privilege speech in July 2019, Senator Panfilo Lacson accused Duque of a conflict of interest in his position as secretary of the DOH. Lacson alleged that certain companies of Duque’s siblings, Doctor’s Pharmaceutical (DPI) and Educational and Medical Development Corporation (EMDC), continued to do business with the government despite Duque’s government positions. Lacson claimed that DPI was earning millions of pesos by leasing out a building of EMDC in Dagupan City to the government for use as offices of the Philippine Health Corporation Regional Office 1.[6]

Duque denied the allegations, saying he had divested all personal interests in DPI in 2005.[7]

Handling of COVID-19 response in the Philippines

As the incumbent secretary of the DOH, Duque has headed the Philippines' response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Before the outbreak of the disease in the Philippines and as the case numbers were rising in Hubei, Wuhan, where SARS-CoV-2 originated, Duque told lawmakers at the House of Representatives on 29 January 2020 that although temporarily banning Chinese nationals from entering the country was a move being considered by the DOH, serious “political and diplomatic repercussions” may arise from it.[8]

When the country started testing citizens for the virus, it was performing only 1,000 tests per day.[9] In a press briefing on April 9, 2020, Duque said the case numbers in the Philippines were relatively “low,” despite the agency’s inability to ramp up testing and determine the actual extent of the outbreak. Health undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said at the time that at least 8,000 to 10,000 tests must be conducted daily in order for the “true picture” of the pandemic in the Philippines to be seen.[10]

In December 2020, Teddy "Boy" Locsin, Jr. revealed that the country missed out on an opportunity to procure 10 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine as early as January when Duque failed to submit a required document. The 10 million doses eventually went to Singapore.[11]

Several personalities including 15 senators has sought to remove Duque from his position since the middle of 2020. However, he has continued to work as the secretary of the department, with President Duterte defending him from criticisms on several occasions[12] and calling him the “hero”[13] behind the government’s “good” Covid-19 response.

Recognition

  • Most Outstanding Rotary President District 3790 (1993)
  • Outstanding Thomasian Alumnus Leadership (TOTAL) Award in the Field of Government Service (2004)[14]
  • Albertus Magnus Science Award by the UST College of Science for his achievements in Medical Science, Public Health and Stewardship of the National Health Insurance Program (2007).[14]

References