Duque out if Robredo wins; VP says new DOH chief must be 'competent, accountable'

Published November 8, 2021, 11:30 AM

by Raymund Antonio

Presidential aspirant Vice President Leni Robredo will appoint a new Department of Health (DOH) secretary if elected president, emphasizing the need for someone “competent” and “accountable”.

Former Health secretaries Manuel Dayrit and Esperanza Cabral join presidential aspirant Vice President Leni Robredo during a media briefing on Nov. 8, 2021 (MANILA BULLETIN)

This is the first time that the Vice President has criticized Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, albeit indirectly, after previously avoiding the question if President Duterte should already replace the embattled DOH chief.

“Magtatalaga tayo ng mahusay na Secretary of Health. Pipili tayo ng may pananagutan, kayang pasunurin ang buong burukrasya, nauunawaan ang mga proseso, may kaalamang teknikal at may malasakit sa taumbayan (We are going to appoint a competent Secretary of Health. We are going to choose someone who is accountable, can lead the whole bureaucracy, understands the process, has the technical knowledge, and has concern for the people),” Robredo said in a media briefing on Monday, Nov. 8, at the Quezon City Reception House.

Accompanying her in the press conference was her running mate Senator Kiko Pangilinan and former DOH secretaries Manuel Dayrit and Esperanza Cabral.

Looking for a new DOH chief is part of the agenda in Robredo’s 10-point “Kalayaan sa COVID-19 (Freedom from COVID-19)” plan.

Cabral, who was Health secretary from January to June 2010 under then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, said that they have come up with the “attributes” that the next president should look for in a new Secretary of Health.

“Commitment sa kanyang ginagawa na para sa tao at hindi para sa kanya. Competence kailangan naman and ating bagong DOH secretary ay nakakaintindi ng mga problema (Commitment that what he is doing is for the people and not for himself. Competence because our new DOH secretary needs to understand the problem). Compassion and all other attributes of a good human being such as integrity, honesty, love for country, and so forth,” she stated.

READ: Duque plans to ‘step down’ as DOH chief after addressing COA findings

Robredo has been regularly consulting both with Dayrit and Cabral since February last year when COVID-19 cases in the country began to be reported.

She added that it’s not just former DOH secretaries that she is consulting with. Other groups from the education, labor, and urban poor sector have joined her crusade to come up with a COVID-19 plan.

“Itong COVID plan hindi ito galing sa akin, but galing ito sa (This COVID plan does not come from me, but this is from the) consultation with all different sectors,” the aspiring president said.

Both Cabral and Dayrit said they are “too happy” in helping Robredo craft “a good health agenda,” though the former said that “we are not exclusive” to the Vice President.

READ: ‘Kalayaan sa COVID’: Robredo’s action plan focuses on addressing public health, hunger, and job losses

Dayrit, on the other hand, said he personally believes that “VP Robredo has qualities for leadership in pushing the agenda forward.”

“Tinitingnan nya lahat ng detalye. Ang situation ngayon, madami tao sa taas ‘di nila naiintindihan ang mga detalye and importante ‘yun lalo na sa Secretary of Health. Kailangan alam paano kumilos ang tao mo. Talagang mabigat ang trabaho ng isang leader. For me, nag-uumpisa sa taas (She looks at all the details. The situation now, people up high don’t understand the details and that is important especially for a Secretary of Health. You need to know how your people are moving. The work of a leader is hard. For me, that starts at the top),” he explained.

“Although sang-ayon din ako sa sinabi ni (I agree with) Secretary Cabral that we give our advice maski sino (to everyone), ako (me) personally, I will support VP,” Dayrit added.

Robredo clarified that when asking for advice from experts, her office does not mind political color as long as they have the “expertise” on addressing the problem.

“Pag expert ka sa field at palagay namin (If you are an expert in the field and we think) we will benefit from your expertise, tatanuning namin kahit wala commitment or may iba na tinutulungan (we will ask even without a commitment or even if you are helping others),” she said.