Emotional Duque aims to bring back DOH’s old ‘glorious’ days

Camille Elemia
Emotional Duque aims to bring back DOH’s old ‘glorious’ days
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III tries to hold back his tears as he discusses plans on regaining the public's trust after the dengue vaccination controversy

MANILA, Philippines – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III turned emotional during the resumption of his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, February 7, as he cited the need to bring back the Department of Health (DOH) to its old “glorious days.”

Duque was answering the questions of Commission on Appointments (CA) member Senator Risa Hontiveros on how to regain the public’s trust in vaccines and the DOH amid the Dengvaxia controversy

Duque, who served as DOH secretary from 2005 to 2010 under the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, said they have a “new stategy” to institution reforms in the agency but did not specify them.

“We have a new strategy roadmap to be able to institute and realize the transformation that I initiated as soon as I entered the DOH because I tell them during my time, in 2005-2010, our budget was P10 to 11 billion but we have much better immunization coverage. We enjoyed public trust and satisfaction, we’re all on-time high from different quarters of credible survey outfits,” Duque said.

“And I said, ‘what happened?’ We have so much budget [now]. I think we need to recapture the glorious days, if you don’t mind, of the DOH then. We hoped to be able to motivate, to inspire,” he said as he held back tears.

He said he has not missed a single flag raising ceremony since he assumed the post. It is his way, he said, to address and uplift DOH employees who have been affected due to the dengue vaccine issue.

“I’m telling them this is a challenge for us… it’s a struggle. We must realize these difficulties are teaching us lessons, lessons so important so that this thing doesn’t happen again. This gives us the opportunity to really reflect what has happened, what had been lost along the way, and I guess they’re quite receptive,” he said.

Duque told the CA panel that while regaining the public trust is a “tall order,” they are already taking steps to do so. He also said there is a need for a “well-defined” governance program in the DOH.

“I think the prescription again is to make everybody in the DOH realize of a well-defined governance program. So when you talk about governance, not just about values – they all understand that. But how do you realize all of these in the day to day work each of the DOH employees does,” he said.

“It’s a struggle I’d be the first to admit [it’s hard] to rebuild the morale of an ailing organization. But as doctors, we’re prepared to deal with it: that we have to prescribe the right medicine, and the right medicine is putting in place a tried and tested governance operating program. I think a lot of the problems of DOH came out on account of either lack of, or poor, governance systems and mechanisms,” he said.

The CA hearing is ongoing as of posting. – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com