The Manila Times

To be or not to be


YES, that’s probably the question lingering in Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa’s mind as his fate now rests in the hands of the 25-member congressional Commission on Appointments.

In a press statement, OFW party-list Rep. Marissa “del Mar” Magsino said Herbosa faces an uphill battle in his confirmation bid before the CA given the Ombudsman’s ruling that perpetually bars him from holding any government post.

Magsino, a member of the House Committee on Health, said if there are legal impediments to Herbosa’s appointment arising from the Ombudsman’s ruling, this would surely not go “unnoticed” when the body starts deliberations on his appointment.

It will be recalled that in a 2016 resolution, then Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales found Herbosa guilty of an administrative offense in connection with alleged irregularities in the 2012 hospital modernization program.

Herbosa was ordered dismissed from government service and perpetually disqualified from holding public office.

The Ombudsman also indicted Herbosa, together with thenHealth secretary Enrique Ona and former assistant secretary Nicolas Lutero, for graft for violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, or Republic Act 3019. The case was filed with the Sandiganbayan.

The three health officials were accused of involvement in the irregularities that marred the implementation of the P392-million hospital modernization project under the Aquino 3rd administration.

A member of the House minority bloc, Magsino expressed confidence that the CA would do its job of rigorously scrutinizing Herbosa’s fitness to head the DoH. She said the congressional body was expected to determine whether or not the Ombudsman’s ruling that imposed a lifetime ban on Herbosa from holding any government post also disqualified him from becoming the Health secretary.

“And for such a sensitive and crucial position as the secretary of Health, this will undergo an even more meticulous assessment because we carry with us the lessons of the pandemic — that the Department of Health’s policies and programs play a fundamental and pivotal role in the lives of our citizens, thus it needs an extremely qualified leader and manager,” Magsino explained.

Herbosa’s confirmation is expected to spark a debate among CA members, as it was noted that the penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding public office with forfeiture of retirement benefits might be cited as a strong reason to bar him from continuing as health secretary.

But while Herbosa has reportedly sought a reversal of the Ombudsman decision before the Court of Appeals, the ruling remains, ergo, is still in effect.

* * *

Again, a to-be-or-not-to-be question. Should we pursue the reclamation projects in Manila Bay or not?

Contrary to the belief of some lawmakers, the presidential adviser on poverty alleviation, Secretary Larry Gadon, has expressed his full support for the reclamation projects that were suspended by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. after they were bombarded with criticisms as oppositors claimed they were the cause of recent flooding.

In the weekly Partners Media Forum in Quezon City last week, Gadon cited the previous reclamation projects done in the same area since the time of the president’s father, the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Sr., which paved the way for the construction of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Folk Arts Theater, and Philippine International Convention Center, among others. Recent reclamation projects resulted in the SM MOA, the Okada Resort and Casino, and other establishments.

Gadon said the projects will yield millions of job opportunities, aside from the billions of pesos to be collected from taxes. Moreover, the government will be a recipient of more than half of the 320-hectare project being carried out on prime property.

Even Singapore, which many Filipinos view with envy as being one of the most highly developed countries in Southeast Asia, has greatly benefited from reclamation, Gadon said.

“Marina Bay, one of the biggest earners for Singapore, stands on reclaimed land,” said Gadon.

According to the anti-poverty czar, BBM was being fed the wrong information.

Gadon said he was preparing an executive summary regarding the reclamation projects to be submitted to the President.

Hopefully, Gadon’s briefer can change the mind of the President so that the projects can resume, as I too don’t believe they are the cause of flooding or that they would deprive the people of the view of the famous sunset.





The Manila Times