MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Benigno Aquino III has accepted the resignation of Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona effective Friday, December 19.
Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr informed Ona of the President’s decision a day after Ona submitted his resignation letter to Malacañang.
In a note to reporters from Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma, he said, “Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., informed Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona that the President has accepted his resignation effective today.”
Ona was on leave after the President asked him to take time off to prepare his answers to questions on the government’s vaccination campaign, and the balance between preventive and curative aspects of public health, as ordered by the President.
The National Bureau of Investigation is looking into the Department of Health’s (DOH) purchase in 2012 of one million units of Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine 10 (PCV 10) – a vaccine used for the immunization of infants and children against pulmonary diseases – worth over P833 million.
Complaints from some sectors alleged that the DOH procured PCV 10 vaccines instead of a “more cost-effective” vaccine, the PCV 13.
The President said earlier his satisfaction with Ona’s performance would depend on his explanation, but after Ona submitted 3 thick volumes explaining decisions made on several issues including the procurement of vaccines, Aquino appeared dissatisfied.
“They went to PCV13, so one must assume that there was a legitimate reason to go from 10 to 13. Now, what became controversial was the succeeding year, they went from 13 back to 10,” Aquino said.
According to the President, at least two investigations of 3 or 4 other issues aside from the vaccines have been completed by the NBI. “I am waiting for my copy,” he said, referring to investigation reports.
Aquino refused to specify what the 3 or 4 other issues were, saying that it seems clear that “there are interests that want to preserve the status quo.” He said he did not want to aid those with an interest to muddle the issues by specifying what the focus of the probes are.
Ona was also taken to task for clinical trials he ordered in September involving the controversial ActRx TriAct, an anti-dengue treatment. The drug has not yet been registered with the Food and Drug Administration as food, drug, or supplement. – Rappler.com