President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has appointed Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire as officer-in-charge of the Department of Health (DOH), Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said Thursday.
Angeles also announced that former LRT administrator Mel Robles has been nominated as general manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
During a press conference in Malacañang, Angeles said Vergeire’s term as OIC may be extended if the administration has not picked a Health secretary after a month.
In a memo, the Palace directed the next-in-rank and most senior officials to take over as officers-in-charge in departments, offices, agencies, and bureaus where replacements of top executives have yet to be named.
The OIC will perform the duties of the office until July 31, 2022, or until a replacement has been designated for the position.
Angeles said the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases would continue to function.
Former Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier designated Vergeire as the succeeding incident manager of the National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC), replacing Myrna Cabotaje.
As the DOH’s officer-in-charge, Vergeire is expected to oversee and manage the country’s overall health situation on top of the threats posed by the rising COVID-19 and dengue cases in the past few weeks.
Also on Thursday, the Department of Justice on Thursday declared that the designation of lawyer Raphael P.M. Lotilla as secretary of the Department of Energy “is valid and lawful.”
The DOJ made the statement to clarify lingering questions about the validity of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s ad interim appointment of Lotilla, who is an independent director of Aboitiz Power, a holding company engaged in power distribution, generation, and retail electricity services, and Ace Enexor, a publicly-listed company engaging in oil and gas exploration and production, both domestically and internationally.
“The novel concept of an ‘independent director’ was not contemplated by Republic Act No. 7638 (otherwise known as the Department of Energy Act of 1992),” the DOJ said, in a statement.
“In accordance with the subsequent laws, namely, the Revised Corporation Code, Securities Regulations Code, and the Code of Corporate Governance, an independent director is not an officer based on the nature, duties, functions and responsibilities vis-à-vis the corporation he serves. It is sui generis (unique or peculiar to itself as being one of a kind) in character,” the department added.
The DOJ noted that even the articles and by-laws of Aboitiz Power Corporation and Ace Enexor where Lotilla served as an independent director “adopt the statutory concept of an independent director.”
“Thus, it is clear that an independent director like Lotilla does not fall within the proscription under Section 8 of RA No. 7638 against an officer, external auditor, accountant, or legal counsel or any private company or enterprise primarily engaged in the energy industry.”
Lotilla had already served as DOE secretary from 2005 to 2007 under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In other developments:
• A senior official of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) has been appointed the officer-in-charge (OIC) general manager of the railway service by the Department of Transportation (DOTr). The MRT-3 announced Thursday the appointment of Ofelia Astrera as the OIC-general manager of the MRT-3, concurrent to her position as the chief of its Support Division. Astrera is a licensed geodetic engineer and holds a master’s degree in public administration.
• Senator Grace Poe yesterday said Vergerie may be a good candidate to consider for DOH secretary, describing her as “very calm… knowledgeable, rational, fair and impartial.” Other senators expressed approval of Vergeire’s designation as OIC. “She has been the face of the DOH all this time and she did it without any fanfare or politicking,” said Juan Miguel Zubiri, incoming Senate president.