‘Removing commander in the middle of battle’: West Visayas DOH chief stripped of COVID-19 role

By: - Correspondent / @nestorburgosINQ
/ 03:33 PM April 03, 2020

ILOILO CITY—The Western Visayas director of the Department of Health (DOH), who had ordered the quarantine of the whole population of a political clan’s hometown, has been stripped of a key role in COVID-19 response in the region at the height of the fight against the pandemic.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas questioned the DOH order which limited the functions of Dr. Marlyn Convocar, Western Visayas DOH director, to operations of the regional office not involving COVID-19 response.


Treñas said at a press conference on Friday that although he had heated arguments with Concovar several times, “a general does not replace a field commander in the middle  of a battle”.

“I don’t like the idea. I would rather have arguments with someone who knows the terrain,” he said.


In a one-page order dated April 2, Health Undersecretary Adbullah Dumama Jr. directed DOH Central Visayas director Dr. Jaime Bernadas to “oversee” COVID-19 response of the DOH in Western Visayas.

Bernadas would attend to and address “various external concerns of local chief executives and all other stakeholders” in the region, the order said.

Dumama, in the order, said Concovar would manage “all other regular operations” of the regional DOH office.

The order did not explain why Concovar was stripped of a key role in COVID-19 response but said “harmonious partnership” with local government units, chief executives and stakeholders was vital for “efficient” operations of the regional office in “critical times.”

“There is a need to define roles and responsibilities,” the order said, “to ensure efficient management response.”

The order did not detail how Bernadas, who is based in Cebu, can effectively oversee COVID-19 response in Western Visayas and address concerns of another region’s officials.

Bernadas and Convocar did not respond to calls from the INQUIRER.


Assistant Health Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, DOH spokesperson, said she has not been informed about the order but that it could be part of measures to streamline DOH operations.

Days before the order, Convocar had declared all residents of Guimbal town in Iloilo as Persons Under Monitoring (PUM), or those with no symptoms, following a case of local transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 in the town.

Convocar had said all residents of the town should go on quarantine for 14 days.

But the order applied even to the Garin family, which protested Concovar’s declaration. The Garins are one of Iloilo’s most prominent political clans which included Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin, former health secretary.

The Garins had argued that only residents of two villages in Guimbal, where three infected persons reside, should be considered as PUM.

Concovar later withdrew the declaration and tagged residents of only two villages, not the entire town, as PUM.

Edited by TSB

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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