Commission on Appointments confirms Duque as DOH chief

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Commission on Appointments (CA) confirmed the ad interim appointment of Francisco Duque III as secretary of the Department of Health (DOH).

The CA made the decision on Wednesday, February 7, a week after it deferred Duque's confirmation over issues relating to the controversial dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

Senate health committee chairman Joseph Victor Ejercito said no other person could better lead the agency than Duque.

"I cannot think of any other person to head the department right now, with your high credibility," Ejercito said.

A total of 3 people opposed Duque's confirmation: Dr Nestor Dizon Jr, Anti-Trapo Movement of the Philippines chairperson Leon Peralta, and Dr David Harold Gosiengfiao. Dizon and Peralta were present during the January 31 hearing while Gosiengfiao testified on Wednesday to question the PhilHealth policy on cataracts.

Duque, for his part, said Gosiengfiao's issue has been discussed in other government fora, including the Senate which held investigations in 2015.

During the hearing, the health secretary turned emotional as he admitted the struggles of the DOH amid the dengue vaccine issue. He also said there is a need to bring back the agency to its "glorious days."

"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 hope to be able to motivate, to inspire," Duque said, trying to hold back his tears.

Duque earlier admitted that the Dengvaxia controversy has "tainted the credibility" of the health department's immunization programs, leading to a drop in immunization coverage. (READ: After Dengvaxia mess, Duque wants more independence for FDA, RITM)

Aside from the dengue vaccine, Duque was also asked about other issues such as the overstocking of medicines, implementation of the reproductive health (RH) law, and financial problems of PhilHealth.

Duque said the DOH is committed to implementing the RH law following the Supreme Court's lifting of a temporary restraining order.

In a statement on Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque expressed confidence in Duque.

"We are confident that Secretary Duque would be able to deliver better health programs and services as the DOH once again aims to regain the trust of our people through integrity, professionalism, and good governance," said Roque.

Duque first served as health secretary during the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from June 2005 to January 2010. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, 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

image