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MANILA, Philippines – Physician and health advocate Tony Leachon resigned on Monday, September 11, as the special adviser for non-communicable diseases of the Department of Health.
“I am writing to formally resign from my position as Special Adviser for Noncommunicable Diseases, Department of Health, effective immediately,” Leachon wrote in his letter to DOH Secretary Ted Herbosa, released to the public on Tuesday, September 12.
“I have made this decision after careful consideration, and it is based on personal reasons that I believe are best for me, my family, and my future,” Leachon said.
Leachon tendered his resignation hours after Iloilo 1st District Representative Janette Garin, vice chair of the House appropriations committee questioned his DOH post and qualifications.
Leachon and Garin’s testy relationship dates back to the time she was the health secretary under former President Benigno Aquino III.
Garin’s issue against Leachon’s appears to stem from the former COVID-19 adviser and PhilHealth directors comments during the highly-criticized dengvaxia controversy, when he said that he could “not blame” the late president Aquino if he was “fed” the wrong information by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Garin.
After the mass anti-dengue vaccination program at that time had already began, it was learned that those who had never had dengue before, but were vaccinated, could contract a more severe form of the mosquito-borne virus.
Last Wednesday, September 6, Garin questioned the DOH’s hiring of Leachon during a budget hearing, pointing out he did not have a doctorate or graduate studies in public health.
“Do you think it’s fair for the DOH to give ₱100,000 to a person whose statements were always skewed and malicious?” Garin asked Herbosa during the House panel hearing. “You can hire him as your personal consultant, but you cannot give him the platform of the Department of Health because that is a lot different,” Garin added.
Leachon resigned only a month after he was appointed as special adviser.
In a separate statement, the health advocate said that the DOH budget hearing at the House appropriations committee “was an eye-opener.”
“It’s not good to be defending one’s qualifications in the public eye. At this stage, I don’t have to prove anything anymore. Well, you may find it difficult to cope with the situation, but eventually you will learn to value yourself and not run after people, positions, and relationships that are not meant for you,” Leachon said.
While he did not specify names in the statement, Leachon mentioned the Dengvaxia controversy alluding to Garin’s questioning his credibility during the hearing.
“The Dengvaxia case will drag on for years. And they will be trying relentlessly to discredit me all throughout its pendency. People don’t care anymore. I can only tell you I was motivated by my desire to help the Filipino people. Honor. Integrity. Courage. These are core values I keep close to my heart through the years. These are my only possessions,” Leachon said.
The P3.5 billion program, and rush to inoculate children against dengue, was criticized at the time in 2016 after it was belatedly learned that the vaccine was only effective for those with previous infections.
Garin defended the P3.5 billion procurement of the dengue vaccine, saying nothing was irregular about it.
In an interview on the ABS-CBN News Channel on Tuesday, Leachon also said he was “disappointed” that Herbosa, who appointed him a special adviser, did not defend him during the committee hearing.
“I think the secretary did not lift a finger to defend me in an open forum, that’s one. And he immediately told the congresswoman that my position as special adviser will be reverted to voluntary, and that was really painful for my family. I worked so hard doing the blueprint and I expected more than that coming from the secretary,” Leachon said.
While he was still willing to help the DOH on a voluntary basis, Leachon said he would return to private practice for now and focus on family. – Rappler.com