“Where are the secretaries?” some Filipinos asked online as two crucial departments of the executive branch remain vacant.
Compared with the Duterte administration, which announced all of the Cabinet members prior to taking office, the incoming administration of president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has yet to appoint Cabinet members to key departments, a day before the presidential inauguration.
Some of the vacant departments are the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
The departments remain crucial agencies while the country is still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. The DOH led the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic while the DOST, which leads research and development programs, was involved in vaccine selection and is a member of the pandemic task force.
The question for many on social media remains: With a crisis like the pandemic, when health and science agencies are important, who will lead them?
“COVID surge, [a] new administration in 9 days, wala pa rin DOH secretary??” molecular biologist @josh_danac tweeted on June 21.
“Still no word on the next DOH secretary, less than two days before new admin unless extend si current SOH?” surveillance analyst John Paul Tanyag (@dumidyeypee) asked in a tweet.
“Just two days remaining before June 30, still no official announcements on DOH and DOST secretaries. Explains health and science are the least prioritized sectors in this country of ours,” physician Harold Henrison Chui said in a tweet
“Teka, teka. Wala pang bagong DOH secretary? Di ba crucial ‘yun?” director Chris Martinez also said in tweet.
On June 28, health secretary Francisco Duque said that the next health chief should have experience leading during a pandemic. This is so the country’s “gains” such as the return of business establishments and transport to full capacities would not be wasted.
“I think it would be good for President Bongbong Marcos to choose someone, and this is my humble manifestation, ‘yung nakakaalam na,’ so they can build whatever the gains this administration was able to accomplish. So, it is wise to get someone who knows what to do,” Duque said.
As of writing, the DOH is said to have prepared a transition plan for the next health secretary.