Returning Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Monday assured he will not hamper the implementation of the Reproductive Health Law, contrary to his previous stance on the controversial issue.
“Of course. Otherwise, I will be charged with dereliction of duty or gross neglect of duty,” said Duque when asked if he will enforce the RH Law, or Republic Act 10354.
When he was Department of Health secretary during the tenure of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from 2005 to 2010, Duque had maintained a hardline stance against the use of contraceptives as part of a reproductive health program.
Instead, the DoH strongly advocated for a natural family planning method.
“There’s a law now and we have to implement the law,” Duque told reporters during yesterday’s turnover ceremony at the DoH.
The RH Law was enacted by then-President Benigno Aquino III in December 2012.
President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Duque to the DoH after interim health secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial was rejected by the powerful Commission on Appointments.
Duque also noted that as a member of the executive branch of the bureaucracy, he is duty bound to implement RA 10354.
At present, the RH Law faces a two-year-old temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court against contraceptive implant brands Implanon and Implanon NXT, which can prevent pregnancies up to three years.
The same SC ruling also barred the Food and Drug Administration from granting any and all pending application for reproductive products and supplies, including contraceptive drugs and devices. This clause has led to the gradual phasing out of contraceptives in the market.
The high court said the FDA must certify the two Implanon brands as non-abortifacients for it to lift the TRO.
The FDA is expected to release a resolution certifying the two contraceptive implant brands as not being able to induce abortion anytime this week.
In a separate interview, Duque said he will focus on equitable healthcare financing, a responsive health system, and better health outcomes “hopefully leading to better quality of life for each Filipino.”
He also assured his leadership would boost the programs of the DOH, including the hospital delivery systems, by acquiring equipment that would improve their diagnostic ability.
The DOH, he said, will exert efforts to lower the incidence of HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other communicable diseases.
He said the programs of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. or PhilHealth will also be strengthened.
Meanwhile, Duque said the drug rehabilitation center built by the government in Nueva Ecija is not the only place where drug dependents can be treated, but also in community-based centers.
“That’s not mutually exclusive. It does not mean that regional centers cannot be used for the community,” said Duque, who was chairman of the Civil Service Commission before his reassignment to the DOH.
“Just the same, it does not mean that community-based cannot be used for big regional drug treatment and rehabilitation center. What is important is really providing access,” Duque said.
Earlier, Dangerous Drugs Board Chairman Dionisio Santiago said the DOH “miscalculated” with their suggestion of building the 10,000-bed mega rehabilitation center inside Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.
“The design, rehabilitation center for 5,000 to 10,000. We cannot build that and there will be a problem in rehabilitation,” Santiago said. He said community-based rehabilitation centers should have been put up instead.
President Duterte opened the Mega Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center at Fort Ramon Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija on Nov. 29, 2016.