“Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputations… can never effect a reform.” Susan B. Anthony
By Alex P. Vidal
IN December last year, acting Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Janette Loreto-Garin sobbed that she was hurt by the intense politicking and name-calling in the department.
She never mentioned who called someone “bobo” (idiot) and “gaga” (dumb), but the former Iloilo first district solon gave people who saw her TV interview the bird’s eye view on what was going on in the DOH since she assumed as acting secretary, when resigned Secretary Enrique Ona went on leave in November.
She was apparently at loggerheads with some DOH bigwigs loyal to Ona.
At the time of name-calling and apparent rudeness displayed by the male species and spoiled brats in the department, there was no hint that Ona could not anymore get back his post.
Unknown to most outsiders, Loreto-Garin, the most junior undersecretary in the DOH, was being bullied by rapscallions who felt uneasy working under a woman acting secretary, and who feared sweeping reforms once Ona’s vacation would be extended.
Alas, Ona’s resignation was accepted by President Benigno Aquino III before Christmas 2014.
The atmosphere in the DOH completely changed when the president announced he would appoint Loreto-Garin as regular secretary after the Papal Visit this month.
Loreto-Garin’s incoming appointment as regular DOH chief would be a slapped on the faces of those who had earlier predicted she would be relegated back to her old post as undersecretary.
It turned out Loreto-Garin has the trust and confidence of President Aquino and was the president’s apple as Ona’s replacement even before Ona resigned.
In between Loreto-Garin’s anguish from the verbal snipes uncorked by “insecure” DOH underlings and the president’s announcement of her appointment as regular DOH chief was the furor involving hitherto Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag, who had been reportedly “demoted”.
Tayag, known as the dancing doctor, and Ona are among the health officials being investigated for the alleged anomalous DOH purchase of anti-pneumonia vaccines for children.
The probe is being conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) as ordered by President Aquino.
Tayag was allegedly the one who ordered the procurement of the PCV-10 instead of the cost-effective PCV-13 for the DOH’s Expanded Vaccination Program.
Although Loreto-Garin did not reveal who were her supposed tormentors, the grapevine said one of them was Tayag.
This was never confirmed by both Loreto-Garin and Tayag but many insiders claimed that both DOH bigwigs “don’t see each other eyeball to eyeball” whatever that means.
“Tayag’s loyalty is still with Ona and Loreto-Garin’s appointment must have sent shivers down his spine and the spines of Tayag’s cohorts,” sources said.
The lady DOH official, wife of Iloilo first district Rep. Oscar “Richard” Garin, Jr., has promised to initiate reforms once she takes over the helm of the DOH as a regular secretary.
She said there were clamors from several officials to fix the DOH organizational structure.
In changing Tayag’s designation, Loreto-Garin clarified that “it was not a demotion because his actual position is really director IV.”
“Sometimes it creates confusion since there are some assistant secretaries who are assistant secretaries by career,” Loreto-Garin said. “We did this with consultation.”
“Doc Tayag was even one of those (directors) who volunteered to me to remove (the title) ASec because he said he was not really an ASec,” Loreto-Garin explained.
It was part of the DOH streamlining, she further said.
Whatever reforms she has in mind for the DOH, Loreto-Garin must do it without fear and favor.
She has the full support of the president and not even the most loquacious and arrogant male underlings can pose as obstacles in her quest to improve the department long bedeviled by anomalies and structural defects.
Just DOH it, Madame Secretary!