Ubial claims demolition job led to CA rejection

Mara Cepeda
Outgoing Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial also clarifies her husband and son only joined her international trips when she was just assistant secretary, not DOH chief

'DEMOLITION JOB.' Outgoing DOH Secretary Paulyn Ubial speaks up on the CA's rejection of her appointment. Screenshot by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Outgoing Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Paulyn Ubial believes a demolition job led to the decision of the Commission on Appointments (CA) to reject her.

Ubial said on Thursday, October 12, that when Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III questioned her foreign travels during one of her CA hearings, he presented pictures of her trips when she was still DOH assistant secretary, not department chief.  

“I wanted to clear it during the CA hearing, but I felt that no matter what I say, it’s useless. There was really a demolition job [against] me,”  Ubial told ANC’s Headstart

“In fact, the pictures that Senator Sotto was showing about my foreign travels – it really disheartens me – it was when I was assistant secretary. Many of them. Not now when I was secretary of health,” she added.

Sotto, also the CA assistant majority leader, had grilled Ubial over her 15 foreign trips as DOH chief. He showed several photos of Ubial during her travels, including a trip to Cuba in August 2016. Sotto had asked Ubial to confirm if 15 DOH officials were part of her entourage. 

Ubial clarified that only 10 officials duly approved by the DOH travel and selection committee traveled with her. She said the rest were their interpreters and guide as well as Filipino students studying medicine in Cuba.

The CA had rejected Ubial’s ad interim appointment to the DOH on Tuesday, October 10. Ubial’s 4 oppositors had accused her of “flip-flopping” on her statements and of controlling PhilHealth’s internal affairs for her own benefit. (READ: What happens to Ubial after CA rejection?)

Despite her rejection, Ubial still thanked President Rodrigo Duterte for giving her the opportunity to lead the DOH, which she has been with for 29 years. (READ: Ubial on CA rejection: ‘We win some, we lose some’

Foreign travels

During the interview, Ubial also clarified that her son Karl did not join her official trips as DOH secretary. Her son’s name was brought up during her confirmation hearings because he made online posts against Sotto and Senator Manny Pacquiao. 

Sotto, without mentioning any names, had also asked Ubial if it were true that her relatives joined her official trips. Ubial confirmed this, but added that she paid for their expenses with her own money.

It was only during Thursday’s interview, however, that Ubial said her son and husband only joined her international trips when she was assistant secretary. 

She said Karl did not renew his passport when it expired in 2015 because he was going to medicine school by 2016. Duterte appointed Ubial as DOH chief in June 2016.

“Actually, there were several trips that my son went with me, but I was assistant secretary at that time. That was, I can remember, China [in] 2010 and New York, Bloomberg meeting, 2015,” she said. 

“So some of them were with my husband, some of them with my son. We don’t travel together, [the] 3 of us, so it was either my husband or my son. And it was only Asian trips because I can afford the ticket and then it was when I was assistant secretary,” Ubial added. 

Like the pictures of her foreign travels, Ubial said she did not clarify this anymore before the CA because she felt they would not listen to her explanation. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.