The Commission on Appointments yesterday confirmed the ad interim appointment of Francisco Duque III as secretary of the Department of Health.
Senator Gregorio Honasan II, chair of the CA's committee on health, endorsed his confirmation to the powerful body, saying that Duque is the right man for the job, considering his wealth of experience in the department he once held, and in government in various capacities.
The endorsement was strongly seconded by Senators Manny Pacquiao, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Joseph Victor Ejercito, and Ralph Recto, as well as Davao Oriental Rep. Joel Mayo Almario.
His confirmation comes at a time when the country is reeling from the Dengvaxiacontroversy, that has cast a cloud over the government's overall immunization program.
Duque was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte to the post on Oct. 26 last year to replace PaulynUbial, whose appointment as health secretary was rejected by the CA.
On Dec. 1, he suspended the government's dengue immunization program following Sanofi Pasteur's announcement that Dengvaxia may increase the risk of severe dengue in those with no prior infection.
In the two confirmation hearings he attended – on Wednesday and last Jan. 31 -- Duque outlined to the CA the DOH's five-year heightened surveillance plan for some 837,000 children who received Dengvaxia.
He added that the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) is prepared to shoulder the costs should a vaccinated child be hospitalized due to dengue.
Aside from the dengue vaccine, Duque was also asked about other issues, such as the overstocking of medicines and the implementation of the reproductive health (RH) law.
Duque said overstocking of medicines did not happen under his watch, stressing that he would not permit such “wasteful” practice if confirmed.
He also said that the DOH is committed to implementing the RH law following the Supreme Court's lifting of a temporary restraining order.
On public mistrust to vaccination due to the Dengvaxia controversy, he said the DOH would do everything to regain public trust in the government's other immunization programs.
“It's vital that the trust and confidence of the Filipino public are regained and I think the prescription again is to make everybody realize the importance of a well-defined governance program,” Duque said.
He also told the CA that his confirmation will be vital for him to effectively discharge his duties.
“It will be a lot easier. There's going to be more focus and there will be less tentative actions. Everything will be more resolute, definitive. That is, I guess, what the confirmation will bring about,” Duque said.
Duque first served as secretary of health from June 2005 to January 2010 during the administration of then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
His five-year stewardship of the DOH was also marked by speedy and effective response efforts against various health emergencies and disasters highlighted by the AH1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009 where the DOH was recognized by the World Health Organization for being one of only three nations with excellent risk communication strategies.
His administration also pushed for key legislative reforms for quality and affordable medicines through the passage of the Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008 (Republic Act No. 9502) and the Food and Drug Administration Strengthening Act of 2009 (Republic Act No. 9711).
The Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Health and Nutrition Strategy was also pursued during his term to bring down the country's high maternal, child and neonatal mortality rates.
Duque was appointed chairman of the Civil Service Commission from 2010 to 2015.
In February 2017, he was appointed by Duterte to head the Government Service Insurance System.
Duque was also appointed as PhilHealth president and CEO from 2001 to 2005.*PNA
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