DA, DOH chiefs confirmed by CA

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star
DA, DOH chiefs confirmed by CA
Composite photo shows Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa and Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr.
Presidential Communications Office

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Appointments (CA) committee on health approved yesterday the ad interim appointment of Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, the CA chairman, expressed belief that the Department of Health (DOH) is in good hands under Herbosa. It was the second time that Herbosa faced the CA.

“I believe that the DOH is in good hands not only because he was appointed by the President, (but also because) he is well-regarded and well-recommended,” Zubiri said, noting that even Philippine Red Cross chairman and former senator Richard Gordon endorsed Herbosa to the DOH portfolio.

The CA, meanwhile, confirmed the appointment of Department of Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr.

At the CA hearing, Senate Deputy Majority Leader Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito asked Herbosa about the status of the investigation on the alleged anomalies in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) such as fraudulent claims, up-casing, cataract scam, among others, which the Senate investigated two years ago.

Ejercito said the anomalies allegedly involved “some PhilHealth employees, some doctors and some hospitals.”

In response, Herbosa said he would make sure those found responsible for the anomalies would be held accountable.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros asked Herbosa about his hostile comment about the community pantries at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Herbosa acknowledged the pain and fear that he had brought upon artist Ana Patricia Non, whom he red-tagged for setting up a community pantry during the pandemic lockdowns.

“For the joke I posted I was immediately informed by our gender and women’s studies to take it down and within two hours I took it down and I think the spread was more of the people who captured it and recirculated it. I also underwent gender sensitivity training for a day with the head herself the gender and women’s studies because of this post,” he said.

“For the community pantry, I actually resigned as the executive vice president of UP because of the response against my post. I made a formal apology and I continue to apologize for that statement,” he said.

“I have already learned early on in the past few days that any comment the Secretary of Health makes on media is already taken as policy, so I will be very careful and wary regarding these lessons I have learned in the past,” he added.

Hontiveros cited the Commission on Audit (COA) 2022 report on issues against the DOH such as low utilization of funds, wastage of funds and deficiency in the procurement process.

“May I know if the secretary is aware of the problem or has the secretary been already briefed about the spending performance of the department?”

In response, Herbosa said he had already instructed his officials to formulate a catch-up plan and find ways to improve the department’s utilization of funds to address the COA findings.

The Alliance of Health Workers (AHW), however, asked the CA to reconsider Herbosa’s appointment.

“Herbosa has shown a disregard for the well-being of health workers, which is particularly concerning during these unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic,” AHW said in a statement.

The group said an effective health secretary should prioritize the needs and safety of health workers.

It called Herbosa an anti-health worker, a red-tagger who supports the privatization of public hospitals and health services. — Marc Jayson Cayabyab, Mayen Jaymalin, Romina Cabrera

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