President Rodrigo Duterte will need to appoint a new Health secretary following the non-confirmation of the appointment of Dr Paulyn Ubial by the Congressional Commission on Appointments (CA). The decision was reached after three confirmatory hearings.

The erstwhile Health chief faced several issues, among them the number of foreign trips she took, the Secretary's authority over the state-run state insurer Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) and its financial issues, as well as her supposed "flip-flopping" on matters such as Zika's presence in the country. Further, Dr Ubial was accused of favouring the procurement of pneumonia vaccines over dengue vaccines, all of which she denied during CA hearings.

An hour into the third hearing by the CA Committee on Health, held on October 10, during the plenary session, committee chair Sen. Gregorio Honasan announced the their decision to “withhold its consent” regarding the Health Secretary's confirmation.

The committee stopped counting votes rejecting Dr Ubial's appointment, after 13 members voted for her non-confirmation, according to Senator Honasan, as reported by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The committee is made up of 25 members.

Dr Ubial did not attend the plenary, but was reported being seen wiping her tears and hugging and kissing supporters after her CA hearing.

Prior to her final confirmation hearing, she had expressed readiness to accept whatever decision the CA would render, saying it was under the Constitution. Having said that, she remained positive of getting the CA's nod, according to the Philippine Star, confident that she was "able to answer all opposition" raised against her in the performance of her duties.

Palace officials expressed regret over the rejection of Ubial's appointment as Secretary of Health, through a statement read by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella. MIMS

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