Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary and Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire assured the public that she will lead the agency with “integrity” amid issues about her management of the DOH.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, March 21, Vergeire said that she will continue to implement the agency’s mandates “in an efficient, appropriate, and inclusive manner.”
Vergeire made the statement in response to a “circulating letter,” apparently addressed to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., describing her as an “authoritarian ruler.” The letter also claimed that she “transfers offices, employees and functions without any consultation nor consent of those involved” and that she was planning “an ambitious restructuring of the entire DOH bureaucracy.” In the said letter, it was stated that it was from “All DOH officers and employees."
“Huling beses na po namin sasagutin ito at pagtutuunan ng pansin dahil gaya ng aming paunang statement (This is the last time we will answer this and just like our initial statement), I will not allow an anonymous letter to distract the Department of Health from doing what needs to be done,” said Vergeire.
“Aasahan niyo po na patuloy natin pangagasiwaan ang Kagawaran ng buo ang ating integridad (I want to assure you that we will continue to manage the Department with integrity),” she added.
Vergeire said that she does not see the need to conduct a “loyalty check” among the employees of the DOH amid this issue.
“ (I don't need to do a loyalty check),” she said.
“I know and I trust that our execom officials and our officials of the Department have confidence in our systems. And I can vouch for the integrity of our execom officials and our officials of the Department,” she added.
Vergeire said that “restructuring” usually happens in every administration. “Hindi po ito bago. Lahat ng nagdaang administrasyon nagsagawa ng restructuring alinsunod sa prioridad ng ahensya at ng ating bagong administrasyon (This is not new. All the previous administrations also implemented restructuring in accordance with the priorities of the agency and the new administration),” she said.
Proper procedures and consultations are being carried out in every action of the DOH, said Vergeire.
“Sinisikap natin na ang bawat plano ay dumadaan sa proper channels and procedures (We are trying to ensure that every plan goes through the proper channels and procedures),” she said.
“Isa po ito sa pinakamahalagang natutunan natin sa kasagsagan ng pandemya: ang pagsasagawa ng konsultasyon sa mga eksperto at sa ating stakeholders dahil alam natin na kailangan natin ang bawat isa upang makamit ang ating objectives (This is one of the most important things we learned during the height of the pandemic: conducting consultation with experts and our stakeholders because we know that this is important to achieve our objectives),” she added.
The Health official said that she is open for any suggestions as well as criticisms.
“Bukas ang aking tanggapan upang dinggin ang mga hinanain o mga kritisismo na maaring makapagpabuti pa sa pamamalakad natin (My office is open to listen to grievances or criticisms that may help in improving our way of doing things),” she said.
“Kung may mga suggestions po tayo o komento na palagay natin makakatulong sa pagbibigay serbisyo natin sa sambayan, huwag kayong mag aatubili ilapit upang maisama natin sa ating pagpaplano (If you have suggestions or comments that you think can help improve our services to the people, please do not hesitate to tell these to us so that we can include it in our planning),” she added.
Female vs male leaders
The Health official, meanwhile, said that there is a difference on how women and men leaders are being judged—relating this statement in the observance of the International Women’s month.
“If a woman is vocal and decisive, she risks being called aggressive [and] difficult, while men are lauded for their passion and fire in the belly. We, as women, have to perform balancing acts such as making sure that as leaders, we are likable enough to be personable but not too likable; lest we be seen as not competent enough for our jobs,” she said.
“Simple lang po ang aming hiling. nawa na sa tuwing tayo ay magaakusa ng kahigpitan sa pamamalakad, sinusuri natin kung ang kahigpitang ito ay tunay na hindi makatarungan o hindi lang ba ito makatarungan dahil babae ang namamalakad (Our request is simple. If we are to accuse [someone] of strictness in governance, we should assess whether this strictness is truly unjust or is it just unjust because a woman is in charge),” she added.