“The fact that the President has full trust and confidence in me is a rare find between boss and subordinate relationship. I promise to myself to repay this warm gesture with integrity in the forefront of my office,” Sec. Duque on PRRD's support towards him.
Latest official COVID-19 Statistics (October 3, 2020) revealed that there were 3,602,725 individuals tested (10.2%); 319,330 confirmed cases (0.29%); 255,046 recoveries (79.9%); 58,606 active cases (18.4%); and 5,678 deaths (1.8%). A satisfactory performance considering even advanced countries didn’t see this coming. Still people say “not good enough”. He is too slow in contact tracing. Too many flip-flaps in decision-making. Inexperienced in pandemics. Too meek for a Secretary of Health in this time of health crisis. Such have been the sentiments of at least the general populace of Metro Manila. Yet, Secretary of Health, Francisco Tiongson Duque III enjoys the unwavering support of President Durterte.
Who is this SOH Duque that warrants the trust and confidence of Malacañang?
Born, Francisco Tiongson Duque III on February 13, 1957 in Manila, “Pincoy,” as he is fondly called by his family and closest friends, grew up in Dagupan, Pangasinan. Pincoy is the youngest of eight siblings –all topnotch medical doctors here and abroad, except for two: Dr. Salvador, Atty. Gonzalo, Dr. Luz, Dr. Nieva, Dr. Grace, Dr. Cristina, and businessman Cesar.
An alumnus of the University of Sto. Tomas (UST), Pincoy earned his Bachelor of Science degree major in Zoology in 1978 and then obtained his Doctor of Medicine degree from the UST Faculty of Medicine and Surgery in 1982. Pincoy built further his credentials since then. In 1987, he earned his Master of Science degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He then pursued an Executive Education Program from the distinguished Harvard University School of Public Health in 1992, thinking this would best prepare him to assume presidency in the family-owned and run, Lyceum-Northwest University (LNU) in Dagupan, Pangasinan.
Founded by the parents Dr. Francisco “Paco” Quimson Duque, Jr. and wife, Florencia Tiongson Duque, the 51-year old LNU has become a fixture of an excellent academic institution in the province of Pangasinan, with health care education in the forefront of its curriculum. While Pincoy set his eyes on actively participating in the family school business, fate has its own course. After serving LNU as its 5th President for a short stint, he was appointed by President Joseph Ejercito Estrada in June 2001 as Chief Executive Officer of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) until 2005, backed by, among his academic credentials, the fact that he is the son of Dr. Paco Duque, the “Father of Medicare” – the purveyor of Philippine Universal Health Care. Pincoy was later appointed as Secretary of Health by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in June 2005 until January 2010.
Approachable, respectable with strong human relations and endearing to his colleagues in government service, Pincoy was acknowledged to be one of the three best secretaries of health the country has ever had, along with Secretaries Juan Flavier and Alfredo R.A. Bengzon. Pincoy’s approval and satisfaction ratings during his 5-year stewardship in the Department of Health (DOH) was marked by breakthroughs and milestones in public healthcare according to Pulse Asia’s and SWS’s surveys conducted between 2005 to 2009.
For his government service and stewardship in the health sector, Pincoy was conferred by UST with The Outstanding Thomasian Alumnus Leadership (TOTAL) Award, and in 2007, by the UST College of Science with the Albertus Magnus Science Award. It was also during his term when the Philippines was given a citation by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the only three nations with excellent risk communication strategies against AH1N1 pandemic (otherwise known as “swine flu” pandemic).
Consultative and having a fast grasp of things, Pincoy was conferred the Communication Excellence in Organizations Award (CEO EXCEL Award) in 2008 by the International Association of Business Communications (IABC), an independent organization composed of media and public relations experts. This was in recognition of Pincoy’s transparent and successful handling of public health challenges, as well as his excellent relations with the public and the media.
Appointed in 2010 as Chair of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) by President Benigno Simeon Conjuanco Aquino III, Pincoy developed the CSC Roadmap for Development and Reforms for 2010-2015. This roadmap was a 5-year blueprint that spelled out the Commission’s priority programs for the country’s 1.4 million workforce --a milestone for this institution which earned the highest ever public awareness, availment and satisfaction average rating of 98% among five other national government frontline service agencies per Pulse Asia Surveys conducted in the 4 th Quarter of 2011, 1 st Quarter of 2013, and 3 rd Quarter of 2014. In the adoption of the Performance Governance System, the CSC was awarded the Governance Trailblazer Seal four times.
This hard working Health Secretary became the first government official to receive the People Manager of Year 2014 in Public Sector (National Official Level) Award from the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP), in recognition of his work as a Human Resource (HR) and Organization Development (OD) visionary, manager, strategic HR, and change champion.
Pincoy continued his advocacy for good governance in the private sector after servicing the Aquino Administration. He was elected Chair of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA) in May 2015. However, on February 15, 2017 he rejoined government service when President Rodrigo Roa Duterte appointed him Chair of the biggest public sector pension fund in the country –the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). In October 2017, barely a year after this appointment, Pincoy was once again appointed Secretary of Health.
In 2019, Pincoy was acknowledged as one of the Philippine Laureates for the Sino Philippine-Asia International Peace Awardees for his immense contributions to revolutionizing healthcare in the country. It was also in 2019 when this Secretary of Health posted the highest “awareness and performance” rating among the Duterte Cabinet Members at 87% and DOH, the highest trust rating of 80% according to Pulse Asia’s survey.
Consistent with his lineage of public servants and academic luminaries, Pincoy never failed to seize the opportunity to push for universal health care. This Secretary of Health believes that like education, health is a great equalizer.
“When people are educated, they can dream. When they are healthy, they can dream bigger. Enabling the citizens of our country to dream is very important. The ability to dream breaks negativities in people –the feeling of apathy and helplessness; thus, promote productivity,” the Secretary remarked.
Pincoy championed quality and accessible medicines for all Filipinos during his first stint as Secretary of Health, spearheaded the lowering of drug prices of 27 molecules through Republic Act 9508 titled “Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008”. Then on his 2nd stint as Secretary of Health, Pincoy pushed for additional 120 medicines for maximum drug price ceiling, capping retail prices of 87 high-cost medicines by up to 58% off through Executive Order 105 titled “Maximum Drug Retail Price.”
Despite the negative register he gets in his day-to-day battle with this illusive COVID-19 virus, Pincoy continues to be up by 4:00 a.m. everyday, sometimes weekends included, to meet his invisible nemesis head-on and retire at 11:00 p.m. bringing with him to sleep what he considers his nightmare.
“It is a thankless job,” Pincoy pondered on his Secretary of Health position, along with his membership in 67 boards and committees seating in various capacities, among these are Chairmanship of the controversial PhilHealth and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), the task force organized by the executive of the Philippine government to respond to affairs concerning emerging infectious diseases in the country.
“But that is what public service is all about. You get into it not for aggrandizement, but for the sheer joy of making one’s life journey meaningful and that of the other’s, bearable,” the Secretary of Health reflected as he would recharge energy by stepping on his daily doze of 3-km run around his village.
Pincoy has always been partial to simple joys among them spending “lazy days” with family, go malling in those pre-COVID days, and hear mass on Sundays. Travelling, along or with family or friends –seeing places, meeting new faces and experiencing various cultures, is a default for this Secretary of Health when time and budget would warrant.
“But public service is a natural high,” Pincoy quipped.
“The fact that the President has full trust and confidence in me is a rare find between boss and subordinate relationship. I promise to myself to repay this warm gesture with integrity in the forefront of my office,” Pincoy concluded.
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