Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Changes at the DOH leadership

I heard last week about DOH Sec. Francisco Duque's planned move to the Civil Service Commission (CSC). Now it's final, and DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral will take his place at the DOH.

The CSC is a Constitutional body. Like the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Commission on Audit (COA). The heads of those Commissions have fixed term, about 6 years. They cannot be removed by the next President, unlike a Cabinet Secretary. Heads of those constitutional bodies can only be removed by impeachment in Congress, I think. So Sec. Duque and soon, CSC Commissioner Duque, will be assured of an extended government post for the next 6 years.

The man is actually unprepared, or have little or zero training to head the CSC. In a news interview, he said,

“It’s my first time (to be with the CSC). I haven’t even been to the office yet. I’m still trying to find out what programs to continue, what are the problems, the challenges. I’m in the process of learning,” Duque said.

What??? The prime government agency to minimize, if not control, political appointees who have little or zero knowledge about the agency that they will head -- but appointed nonetheless simply because they are very close to the President or other top government officials -- is to be headed by someone who himself is not familiar with the CSC.

Back to the DOH. In terms of medical and professional training, I think Sec. Cabral is less (or non-) politician than Duque. The drug price control was facilitated by Sec. Duque himself because he wanted to run as a Senator, but backed out later -- along with Sec. Jesli Lapus of DepEd, other cabinet secretaries -- when they realized that their chance of winning the Senatorial election is next to an average grade schooler's chance of passing an exam in calculus.

Sec. Cabral is a cardiologist and pharmacologist. Well, that was before she accepted the work of a top bureaucrat in some agencies (DSWD, then DOH). As a pharmacologist, she will understand better the science and medical implication of discouraging innovator drugs, more disease-killer drugs but sold "high", from coming into the country with persistent ugly policies like price control.

But then again, it is election time and Sec. Cabral is just an appointee of President Gloria. Between her being a physician and the political pressures of the election and weak chance of all administration party candidates, from Senatorial to Presidential, the pressure to extend, if not expand, drug price control may be heavy for her.

The pharma industry -- both multinational and domestic pharma companies -- can perhaps explain to her the long-term implications of continued price control. Like the number of personnel that were laid off as a result of mandatory and coercively-imposed drug price cut.

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