• NO RESIGNATION FOR DOH CHIEF

    Palace: Only leave extension for Ona

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    Health Secretary Enrique Ona has not resigned but will extend his leave of absence, Malacañang said on Friday.

    In a news conference, Palace deputy spokesman Abigail denied reports that Ona, who faces allegations of anomalies in procurement of pneumonia vaccines by his department, submitted his courtesy resignation on Thursday.

    Valte said Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. asked Ona to extend to his leave to give President Benigno Aquino 3rd more time to assess a report that was submitted a week ago.

    “My understanding is that Secretary Ona has already submitted his report that was asked, that was required of him by President Aquino, and that Secretary Ona is extending his leave of absence to afford the President time to assess the contents of the report that he has submitted,” she told reporters.

    Valte, however, admitted that Ona’s fate will depend on the President’s assessment.

    “Now that Secretary Ona has given the answers to that, it’s now time for the President to assess the answers that have been given to him, and also to perhaps propound additional questions,” she said.

    “The way that it works with the President is that he really has to go through it to see if the data that have been submitted to him sufficiently answer his questions,” Valte added.

    Last October 28, Ona filed a leave of absence purportedly for health reasons but Aquino said he asked Ona in mid-November to go on leave to allow him to prepare answers to questions concerning the alleged anomalies.

    The National Bureau of Investigation is conducting an investigation of the procurement by the Department of Health (DOH) of pneumoccal conjugate vaccine (PCV) 10 in 2012.

    Ona and Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag are under fire for supposedly ordering the purchase of PCV10—which was more expensive—instead of the more cost-efficient PCV13.

    The Health chief, however, denied any wrongdoing in connection with the DOH’s controversial procurement of P833.6 million worth of anti-pneumonia vaccines two years ago.

    With Ona going on leave, the President appointed Health Undersecretary Janette Garin, a member of the Liberal Party, as acting secretary of the department.

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