The ad interim appointment of Francisco Duque III as Department of Health (DOH) Secretary was confirmed by the Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday.
The decision was made a week after the CA delayed voting on the confirmation of Duque’s appointment due to the controversies hounding dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
Senator Joseph Victor Estrada, health committee chariman, backed the confirmation of Duque’s appointment, saying that there is no other person could better manage the department than Duque.
“I cannot think of any other person to head the department right now, with your high credibility,” Ejercito said.
On the other hand, Anti-Trapo Movement of the Philippine chairman Leon Peralta, Dr. Nestor Dizon Jr., and Dr. David Harold Gosiengfiao were opposed to the confirmation of the health chief. During the January 31 hearing, both Peralta and Dizon were present while Gosiengfiao testified on Wednesday to ask about the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) policy on cataracts.
The health chief turned emotional as he faced the CA for the second time on Wednesday for his confirmation.
Legislators questioned Duque for controversies surrounding the health department, including issues on the anti-dengue vaccine, the measles outbreak in Davao City, implementation of the reproductive health (RH) law, overstocking of medicines, and corruption allegations within the state health insurance company.
“During my time, in 2005 to 2010 your honor, when our budget was like a measly ₱10, ₱11 billion, we had much better immunization coverage, we enjoyed consistent public trust and satisfaction ratings, availment and public awareness of our programs,” Duque said.
A tearful Duque admitted that the DOH is fighting “too many battles in too many fronts” amid Dengvaxia issue.
“I said, ‘What happened?’ Now that we have so much budget. I think we have to recapture the glorious days of the DOH back then. We hope to be able to motivate, to inspire,” he said.
On Monday, Duque also admitted that the controversy on Dengvaxia “tainted the credibility” of the health department’s vaccination program which resulted to a decrease in immunization coverage.
The health chief halted the school-based vaccination program in 2017 after Dengvaxia manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur revealed that the vaccine could lead to severe diseases if administered to people who have not been infected by Dengue beforehand.
Also on Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque expressed confidence in Duque as the department’s health chief.
“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,” Roque said.
Duque was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte in October 2017, replacing Paulyn Ubial who was rejected by the CA on October 10.
He previously served as health chief from June 2005 to January 2010 under the Arroyo administration. He was also chairman of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) during the Aquino administration and former president and director of PhilHealth in 2001 and 1999.