Lawmakers defer vote on Duque confirmation


Posted at Jan 31 2018 01:04 PM | Updated as of Jan 31 2018 07:18 PM

Health Secretary Francisco Duque, gestures as he attends the Senate inquiry on the dengue vaccine controversy, December 11, 2017. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Wednesday failed to secure the approval of lawmakers in his return to the Cabinet, pending further deliberations.

Senator Gringo Honasan, who led the hearing, said they still have questions on issues other than the controversial dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, which Duque must be able to answer clearly.

"We want to find out what his programs and policies are, proactively na nandyan na yung disease bakuna na naman and then baka pareho na naman mangyari," Honasan told reporters.

Dr. Nestor Dizon, Jr., a government doctor assigned in Payatas, Quezon City, and Leon Peralta, founding chair of the Anti-Trapo Movement, testified against Duque's nomination.

Dizon alleged government doctors receive low salary and zero benefits. He also testified regarding his dismissed petition filed before the Civil Service Commission when Duque was still chair.

Peralta revived Duque's supposed holding of various government positions while serving as CSC chair and his supposed anomalies committed in the agency which even resulted to a case in court.

Duque said Dizon's case was decided by the CSC board and not by him alone and that Peralta's argument has long been dismissed.

However, Honasan clarified that the delay on Duque's nomination has nothing to do with the two opposition statements. Duque also said he is receptive of the committee's decision.

"Let's respect the time that they need to make whatever decision is appropriate," Duque told reporters.

President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Duque to the health portfolio in October, months after the Commission on Appointments rejected Paulyn Ubial.

Duque previously served as health chief from June 2005 to January 2010 under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He was also chairman of the Civil Service Commission during the Aquino administration.

Months into his return to the health department, Duque suspended the dengue immunization program for school children following the admission of drug manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur that its dengue vaccine Dengvaxia could lead to more severe symptoms if given to those who have not had the mosquito-borne disease before.

Sanofi paid an initial P1.16 billion refund for unused Dengvaxia doses earlier this month. Duque said the government will take legal action against the French drug maker if it refuses to fully refund the P3.5 billion spent on its vaccine.

Some 830,000 public school students were inoculated with Dengvaxia under the campaign launched by the previous administration in 2015. 

At least 5 vaccine recipients died less than 6 months after receiving the drug, the Public Attorney's Office had claimed. - with report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News