President Marcos has appointed Health Undersecretary and spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire as the officer in charge of the Department of Health (DOH) pending the appointment of the new health secretary.
Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said Thursday that Vergeire, who heads the DOH’s Public Health Services Team, will serve as OIC until the end of the month in accordance with Memorandum Circular No. 1. Under MC 1, the next rank or majority of senior officials of an agency will be appointed as OIC until July 31 or until a secretary is appointed. Vergeire previously served as head of the National Vaccination Operations Center.
“We hope that if the DOH does not have a designated secretary before that time, the OIC can be extended. But we will see what happens at that time, ”Cruz-Angeles said at a Palace briefing.
According to him, the President is still reviewing the nominees for the next health secretary but did not present a short list of potential candidates.
At the same briefing, Cruz-Angeles announced that former Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) administrator Melquiades Robles has been appointed general manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
“He is credited with being the sole administrator who made that agency profitable,” he said, referring to Robles, a longtime aide of evangelist Mike Velarde, founder of the Catholic charismatic group El Shaddai.
In 2017, the Sandiganbayan ordered the arrest of Robles and 10 other LRTA officials for the graft case in the agency’s implementation of the P400-million janitorial contract, but he and the other officers were acquitted.
Aside from the health department, Marcos has not yet announced his secretaries for science and technology, and human settlements and urban development.
Pandemic monitor OCTA Research on Thursday praised Marcos ’decision to appoint Vergeire as the DOH’s OIC because he is seen providing“ continuity and stability ”in the government’s pandemic response.
“[Mr. Marcos] chose the right person to be the OIC. [Undersecretary] Vergeire will provide continuity and stability to the DOH. He is very good and the public trusts him. She has been the reassuring voice of the DOH during the pandemic, ”OCTA fellow at University of the Philippines professor Ranjit Rye said in a statement to reporters in reaction to the new development at the DOH.
Rye said that while Vergeire is “not a big fan” of OCTA, he said the health spokesperson should be included on the short list of health secretary candidates.
The DOH, through Vergeire, opposed some of OCTA’s analysis of the COVID-19 situation, such as when the pandemic monitor claimed in November last year that the country had already reversed the surge caused by the Delta variant.
The health official then also warned against declaring some areas in the “endemic stage,” a conclusion made by OCTA at the time.
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