NEWLY designated Health Undersecretary Camilo Pancratius P. Cascolan, a retired national police chief, has defended his appointment amid criticisms, saying health management is “not limited to medical knowledge.”
A health workers’ group and opposition lawmakers denounced President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s choice of Mr. Cascolan, citing his lack of qualification.
Mr. Cascolan told One News Philippines in a text message that while he is not from the health sector, he has expertise in emergency response and has worked closely with local governments.
“I conceptualized COVID Task Force and gave it to (former police chief) Guillermo T. Eleazar,” he said. “I conceptualized admin Support for COVID Task Force (which I headed). I started COVID protocols in the initial stage when everybody was in a quandary.”
He said “balancing science and management and strategy is very important”.
“My experience on the ground and working with (local government units) is also a factor that can bring the department closer to the people.”
On the other hand, Alliance of Health Workers National President Robert T. Mendoza said in an interview with One News Philippines that Mr. Cascolan’s qualifications are not suitable to the position.
“For me, his qualifications are not what we need, what we need is an expert on administration management with expertise on health and not in law enforcement,” Mr. Mendoza said in Filipino.
He said there are many qualified doctors within and outside the Department of Health (DoH) who are knowledgeable in both health and management issues.
“What will (Mr. Cascolan) suggest during executive committee meetings on topics revolving around diseases?” he said. “We know his track record, especially in anti-drug campaigns where many of our fellow citizens died.”
Mr. Mendoza also said the coronavirus response by the COVID task force was a failure because of its “militaristic” or “anti-drug campaign-related” approach instead of being science-based had it been led by “medical experts, virologists, and scientists”.
ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France L. Castro said Mr. Cascolan’s appointment “is like a slap on the face of dedicated and qualified healthcare practitioners who were bypassed for the position.”
Senator Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros-Baraquel said a health undersecretary is expected to have qualifications and expertise, and be active in the public health sector.
“The DoH should and must always be a public health-led agency, especially as we continue to deal with COVID-19 and other burdens of disease,” she said.
The senator added, “We hope that the DoH will find suitable roles for Mr. Cascolan to further add value in addressing threats to public health security and safety in our communities.”
Iloilo Rep. Janette L. Garin, a former DoH secretary, said the “delivery of health services is not just about doctors and scientists working together.”
“Non-medical managers are likewise needed to put order and implement programs,” she said.
Mr. Marcos, who took office on June 30, has yet to appoint a DoH secretary. Undersecretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire is currently designated as an officer-in-charge. — Kyanna Angela Bulan