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CA members to question Duque on medical aid

MANILA, Philippines — The confirmation of the appointment of new Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III is expected to face rough sailing in the Commission on Appointments (CA).

Congressmen sitting in the CA intend to question him on the suspension of the release of billions in funds for medical assistance to indigent patients in government hospitals in Metro Manila and the provinces.

“We want to know the reason for the suspension. We want to know if the funds have already been exhausted,” said one CA member yesterday who did not want to be named.

He said he and other lawmakers could not refer to the DOH and government hospitals thousands of indigent patients seeking medical assistance because of the suspension.

“We try to help them with whatever amount we can give them out of personal funds,” he said.

The lawmaker added the DOH medical assistance budget is supposed to last up to the end of the year.

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Duque is also expected to face questioning from Sen. Vicente Sotto III on his stand to fully implement the Reproductive Health (RH) Law.

The new health secretary took such stand after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), complying with a directive from the Supreme Court (SC), recertified 51 contraceptives as not causing abortion.

After the FDA issued the new certification, the DOH said the SC temporary restraining order (TRO) on the distribution of such RH products was effectively lifted.

Sotto, who opposed the RH law when it was still a bill in Congress, wants the DOH to go back to the high court and ask if the TRO has been lifted.

He also proposed the Senate health committee look into the FDA recertification before the DOH distributes contraceptives.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the authors of the RH Law, has supported the stand taken by Duque and the DOH.

He quoted the SC resolution of April 26 this year, which provides that the TRO “is deemed lifted after the FDA recertifies the questioned products.”

Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, who is CA majority leader, told The STAR that he is confident Duque could sufficiently explain issues related to the RH law and medical assistance to poor patients.

“I think eventually, the CA will confirm him,” he said.

Albano said he is heartened that Duque “has expressed support for my bill seeking to allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes on a strictly regulated basis for people suffering from debilitating diseases.”

Albano is the principal author of the proposed Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, which the House committee on health chaired by Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan has endorsed and on which the chamber has opened floor deliberations.

Earlier, Albano and Lito Atienza of party-list group Buhay and Gus Tambunting of Parañaque supported Duterte’s choice of Duque as new health secretary.

“His track record speaks for itself. He is a good man, and he has not been involved in any shady deals,” Albano said.

“He will do a lot of good for the people and the Duterte administration. His track record is unblemished,” Atienza added.


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