Ending weeks of intense speculations, President Benigno Aquino III has finally accepted the resignation of Enrique Ona as health secretary effective December 18.
The announcement was made by Palace communications secretary Herminio Coloma Friday afternoon.
The status of Ona has been in doubt since he filed a leave of absence from his position effective end of October. Undersecretary Janette Garin, a former three-term congresswoman, was promptly named as DOH’s officer-in-charge.
Ona initially said that he is going on a month-long leave of absence to attend to “personal matters,” which he did not identify. It didn’t take long for Ona’s claim to be debunked by no less than the president himself.
Speaking to reporters in early November, Aquino said that Ona decided to go on leave after he wasn’t able to satisfactorily answer his questions about the department’s immunization programs, among others.
And just when everyone thought that Ona is already about to return to his post, Garin’s office, in her capacity as OIC of DOH, released a statement questioning Ona’s decision to go ahead with the testing of ActRx Triact, a supposed drug against malaria and dengue. Read more about this issue from GMA News Online’s Ibarra Mateo.
Ona and assistant health secretary Eric Tayag are also being investigated by the Department of Justice for their procurement of anti-pneumonia vaccines worth P800 million in 2012 that went against the recommendations of the World Health Organization.
The question that begs asking is, will these investigations push through now that Ona has decided to leave? Or, did the Aquino administration and Ona have a deal similar to what it had before with former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez?
Back then, it was reported by investigative journalist Ellen Tordesillas that Gutierrez accepted Malacanang’s offer for her to resign rather than face possible impeachment as long as there’s an assurance that she won’t be charged with anything.
Postscript: It can be recalled that Ona isn’t really Aquino’s first choice for the position. A few days before his inauguration in 2010, it was reported that he is inclined to choose for the position either Jaime Galvez Tan, who served under Fidel Ramos, or Esperanza Cabral, who is Gloria Arroyo’s third and last health chief.