Not so fast; acting DOH chief not a shoo-in for post | Inquirer News

Not so fast; acting DOH chief not a shoo-in for post

By: - Reporter / @NikkoDizonINQ
/ 04:31 AM December 21, 2014

Whoa! Not so fast.

Enrique Ona may be officially out of the Department of Health (DOH), but Acting Health Secretary Janette Garin may not yet claim his office.


President Benigno Aquino III has not yet named a successor to Ona, Malacañang said on Saturday, so Garin has to wait for the papers officially giving the job to her.

“The President has not yet decided on who to appoint (as) the successor to Secretary Ike Ona. What will happen is we will have a status quo,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said on government-run Radyo ng Bayan.


Janette Garin

Acting Health Secretary Janette Garin. FILE PHOTO

Lacierda said Garin would remain acting secretary until “any permanent appointment has been announced.”

Reached for comment yesterday, Garin said: “We’re just awaiting instructions from Malacañang. We will respect whatever is the decision of Malacañang.”

Ona resigned in late November amid an investigation into the DOH’s purchase of pneumonia vaccines worth P800 million, but President Aquino accepted his resignation only on Friday.

Reason unknown

Lacierda said it remained unknown why Mr. Aquino accepted Ona’s resignation.

“What we were told and as mentioned by Secretary (Herminio) Coloma yesterday is that the executive secretary informed Secretary Ike Ona of the President’s acceptance of his resignation. Other than that statement, we have no information,” Lacierda said.

Garin takes over


Curiously, Mr. Aquino accepted Ona’s resignation although he had yet to complete his assessment of Ona’s explanation of his decision to buy the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine 10 (PCV 10) instead of the supposedly more cost-efficient PCV 13.

In October, Mr. Aquino sent Ona on a monthlong leave to put together an explanation for his controversial decision.

Garin took over as acting health secretary, presiding over the Philippines’ response to the worsening Ebola outbreak in West Africa, including visiting on Nov. 16 Filipino peacekeepers on Caballo Island where they were quarantined after being recalled from Ebola-stricken Liberia.

Even as OIC, Garin shuffled personnel in the health department, including handing a fourth-level directorship to the dancing Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag, who is also under investigation for the vaccine purchase.

Tayag danced off the scene, but is still working at the DOH, where Garin has become the new star.

It was also Garin who successfully defended the health department’s P102.2-billion budget for 2015 in the Senate.

Ona was supposed to return to work in November, but Malacañang extended his explanation leave without letting the public in on what’s really going on.

Last week, the President told reporters that he wanted Ona to explain “three to four more issues,” but did not say what those “issues” were.

Time with family

As it turned out, Ona resigned on Nov. 27, or at least that’s the date of his letter of resignation, in which, according to a television report on Friday night, he cited the health department’s achievements on his watch and expressed his desire to spend more time with his family.

“The President is still assessing the report … Suffice it to say that since Secretary Ike Ona issued his—or, rather, wrote a letter to the President about his courtesy resignation, the President deemed it best to accept the resignation,” Lacierda said.

Despite the television report, in which the contents of Ona’s letter were read, Lacierda said no one knew the “context” of the letter.

“[I]t’s a matter between the President and Secretary Ike Ona,” he said. “So we will leave it at that in the meantime.”

The Inquirer learned that President Aquino and Ona had not yet seen each other since Ona sent his resignation to Malacañang on Monday.

Savings for gov’t

In his explanation to the President, Ona maintained that his decision to approve the purchase of PCV 10 instead of PCV 13 was the “best judgment” to “optimize limited government resources.”

PCV 10 is cheaper by $1 per dose compared with PCV 13, saving the government some P231.7 million.

President Aquino directed the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the alleged irregularities in the procurement of the vaccines.

The investigation supposedly stemmed from a complaint filed directly in the Office of the President by the National Center for Pharmaceutical Access and Management, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

But the WHO denied it was among those who filed a complaint against Ona.

Antipneumonia program

The antipneumonia program initially targeted 700,000 children under 1 year old from the poorest families listed in the government’s National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction.

The government ultimately decided to roll out a nationwide vaccination program for 1 million year-old children from the poorest families. With a report from Tina Santos

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TAGS: DoH, Enrique Ona, PCV 10
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