December 17, 2017, 10:23 am
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CA rejects Ubial’s appointment

BY JP LOPEZ AND GERARD NAVAL

THE public health career of Paulyn Jean Ubial, which started as a rural health worker in Kidapawan in North Cotabato in 1990, ended yesterday after the Commission on Appointments (CA) rejected her appointment as health secretary.

The CA made the decision after its committee on health, through secret voting in an executive session, endorsed Ubial’s rejection to the plenary.

Ubial is the fifth Cabinet official appointed by President Duterte to be rejected by the CA.

The other four are Perfecto Yasay as foreign affairs secretary, Regina Lopez as environment secretary, Judy Taguiwalo as social welfare secretary, and Rafael Mariano as agrarian reform secretary.

“I know there are a lot of opposition and manifestation that are before you about my not being capable and to be the secretary of health, but your honor, I stand by my commitment to the President,” Ubial said during the confirmation hearing at the committee level.

Those who opposed Ubial’s appointment included former Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) interim president and chief executive officer (CEO) Hildegardes Dineros, who said Ubial “peddled” lies before the CA when she claimed that he resigned from his post.

Dineros said he did not resign but was ousted from PhilHealth by Ubial and replaced by Dr. Celestina Ma Jude de la Serna.

PhilHealth employees who signed a manifesto against Ubial’s confirmation said she committed “grave abuse of power and usurpation of authority” and violated the rights of PhilHealth employees to due process when she arbitrarily suspended allowances and salary adjustments due to a notice of disallowance issued by the Commission on Audit (COA).

Maria Fe Francisco, who represented the employes during the hearing, said: “The decision of the PhilHealth Board resulted in extreme demoralization and has in turn, affected corporate output.”

Ubial was assistant secretary for health regulations from 2008 to 2016 during the Arroyo and Aquino administrations. She was also appointed as regional director for the Davao Region from 2006 to 2008.

Panel chair Sen. Gregorio Honasan said the lawmakers stopped counting “when we reached 13” during the executive session. Thirteen is needed to reject the nominee.

Honasan said, “It is the process that should be respected.” 

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said: “Smoking is dangerous to your health, like lying is dangerous to your health.”

Ubial, in a text message that served as her statement on the CA decision, said: “That’s life.” 

Department of Health (DOH) spokeswoman Dr. Corazon Flores said DOH officials are prepared to accept the CA’s rejection of Ubial’s appointment.

“It would be understandably difficult to lose the momentum the agency has gained in its work under Secretary Ubial in the past 15 months,” said Flores. “(But) we are prepared to extend our full cooperation to whoever the President chooses as a replacement for Secretary Ubial.” 

Several health groups expressed disappointment over the CA decision.

“Sad to hear about CA rejection of Sec. Ubial. She rose from the ranks and she knew what the problems are on health. It’s a pity that the DOH missed the person who could have led it to the right direction,” Action on Smoking and Health executive director Dr Maricar Limpin said.

“We just lost someone in the person of Sec. Ubial, who has been a staunch advocate of family planning and reproductive health. Now, we are back to square one. Sayang,” said The Forum for Family Planning and Development, Inc. (The Forum) president Benjamin de Leon.

Ubial was DOH secretary when the executive orders for the nationwide smoking ban and the zero unmet need for modern family planning were signed. – With Jocelyn Montemayor and Reuters
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