THE Commission on Appointments on Tuesday rejected the ad interim or recess appointment of Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial, the fifth member of the Duterte Cabinet to get the axe from the powerful body.
Ubial did not attend the plenary session where her rejection was announced by Sen. Gregorio Honasan 2nd, chairman of the commission’s health panel, three days before Congress adjourns for a month-long break.
Honasan said that after three hearings and the examination of voluminous documents, 13 members voted to reject Ubial, who was named Health secretary on June 30, 2016.
“We had a short discussion with some members making statements for and against. There were many issues. We cannot zero in on any single complaint,” Honasan said.
Before Ubial, the commission had rejected the appointments of Perfecto Yasay Jr. (foreign affairs), Regina Lopez (environment), Judy Taguiwalo (social welfare and development) and Rafael Mariano (agrarian reform).
Four individuals opposed Ubial’s appointment: Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque; lawyer Restituto Mendoza; Potenciano Malvar, medical director of the General Miguel M. Malvar Medical Foundation; and Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) employee Marie Fe Francisco. They all accused Ubial of corruption and incompetence.
Raised against Ubial were her appointments of officers in charge in Philhealth, which is a prerogative of the President; her supposed inconsistencies during the Zika virus outbreak, and pricey foreign trips with her son.
Honasan said the process had to stop as “we cannot afford to have the commission suffer from information overload.”
“We have a rule that if we reach 13, (whether to) reject or confirm, we stop the counting,” Honasan said in a chance interview after the appointments body’s vote.
At one point during her confirmation hearing, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd told Ubial: “If smoking is dangerous to your health, lying is dangerous to your confirmation.”
Sotto made the remark after former PhilHealth president and chief executive officer (CEO) Hildegardes Dineros complained that Ubial “peddled” lies when she claimed that he resigned as PhilHealth chief.
“Secretary Ubial repeatedly claimed that I was not ousted but in fact resigned as PhilHealth president and CEO. She lied. I was ousted upon the instigation by the chairman of the board, Secretary Ubial,” said Dineros.
Francisco claimed that Ubial committed “grave abuse of power and usurpation of authority.” She was among 150 PhilHealth employees who signed a manifesto against Ubial.
When God closes a door…
Ubial on Tuesday said she had no idea what led to her rejection but said she respected the appointments body’s decision.
“That’s life! It has ups and downs! When God closes a door he opens a window,” she told The Manila Times.
Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella wished Ubial well.
“We regret the Commission on Appointments’ non-confirmation of Department of Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial. We wish Secretary Ubial well in all her future endeavors,” Abella said.
“We are deeply grateful for Secretary Ubial’s service to the Health Department and for epitomizing the President’s compassion through her ‘All for Health, towards Health for All’ Philippine Health Agenda,” Abella added.
with KENNETH HERNANDEZ AND LLANESCA T. PANTI