First 100 Days: Where is the health secretary, Marcos asked

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, delivers a speech after taking oath as the 17th President of the Philippines, during the inauguration ceremony at the National Museum in Manila, Philippines, June 30, 2022. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

One hundred days since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. sat in power, some Filipinos continued to ask who the new secretary of health is. 

“Wala pa rin siyang DOH secretary? 100 Days na,” a Twitter user said

“Makaka-100 days na si Marcos Jr pero wala pa rin tayong DOH Secretary,” sociologist Athena Presto said

“DOH secretary who?” an online user asked

“On the 100 days of Junior, PBBM gave Pinas…0 DOH Secretary!” a Twitter user said

“Hanggang ngayon walang DOH Secretary pero yung mga cabinet secretaries niya nagsisialisan na,” an online user noted.  

Last weekend, physician Tricia Robredo, daughter of Marcos’ rival in the 2022 elections, former vice president Leni Robredo, was also looking for a new health secretary.

On Reddit, the doctor was asked about her opinion on the healthcare system in the country. 

“LF: Secretary of Health,” she answered.

“LF” is short for “looking for,” usually used in internet speak.

READ: Tricia Robredo comments on PH healthcare system during Reddit ‘ask me anything’ session

Some expressed hopes that the president will finally complete his Cabinet secretaries. Marcos is also the acting agriculture chief.

This week three officials left before their first 100 days in office. These are former executive secretary Victor Rodriquez, former press secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles, and former Commission on Audit chair Jose Calida days.

RELATED: The Marcos appointees who left before administration’s first 100 days

“I’m still waiting for him to complete his cabinet secretaries. He should fill out the DA and DOH secretary posts,” a Twitter user said.  

Marcos previously boasted about assembling the best and the brightest people to serve his administration and establish a “functional” government. 

“I think what we have managed to do in the first 100 days is put together a government that is functional and which has a very, very good idea of what we are targeting in terms of strict economic targets for example, in terms of the numbers of growth, the numbers of our different measures, the different metrics that we are using for the economy,” Marcos said in a press conference.

‘Not a priority’

Meanwhile, based on the assessment of the former health secretary Esperanza Cabral, the Marcos administration appears not to prioritize the health sector. 

“Parang nagisisignal sa atin na parang hindi masyadong priority ang health dito sa ating bagong administrasyon,” Cabral said in an interview with ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo

“Sa ngayon ang ahensya na wala pang kalihim ay ang Department of Health, samantalang tayo ay nasa pandemic pa,” she noted. 

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire is currently the officer-in-charge of the Department of Health, a post she was assigned in July.

A memorandum notes Vergeire is supposed to be the OIC until July 31 or until a health secretary is formally appointed.

Days before her designation, similar questions were asked about the Cabinet-level seat as the country dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges of monkeypox.

RELATED: ‘Wala pa ring Secretary of Health’: Marcos asked amid steady rise in COVID cases

Cabral said it is not enough to have an officer in charge manage the DOH as it would be difficult to institutionalize health policies. 

“Hindi po officer in charge lamang dahil kapag officer in charge hindi mo masyadong ma-push yung kailangan mong policy agenda para sa department of health kasi nangangaba ka na baka bukas lang mapalitan ka na,” she noted. 

In July, the DOH launched the “PinasLakas” immunization campaign that seeks to administer COVID-19 boosters to 50% of the eligible population — or 23.6 million individuals — within the first 100 days of the Marcos administration. The drive also seeks to vaccinate 90% of the target senior citizen population.

However, the uptake of life-saving vaccines remained low, forcing the DOH to revise its vaccination target to only 30%.

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