President Rodrigo Duterte is given a tour around Southern Philippines Medical Center Children’s Cancer Institute in Davao City by hospital chief Dr. Leopoldo Vega on Dec. 28, 2019. KARL NORMAN ALONZO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO


The head of the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City was named undersecretary of the Department of Health, following blunders under Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s appointment of Dr. Leopoldo Vega was announced by Palace spokesman Harry Roque on Friday night.

A cardiothoracic surgeon, Vega was surgery chief of the government hospital before becoming medical center chief in 2008.

Duque has been criticized over his handling of the coronavirus response, and in April, 14 senators called for his resignation.

On Thursday, Duque blamed his staff for delays in the release of the compensation for health workers who had died of or contracted Covid-19.

The president set a June 8 deadline and told Duque to find a new team to do the job.

Duterte, in a televised address, said he would not let go of officials who had committed an “honest mistake.”

Duque was rumored to be on his way out after controversy over supposedly overpriced protective equipment and testing kits, and causing alarm for testifying before senators that the Philippines was already under the “second wave” of coronavirus infections.

The health chief later reversed himself and attributed the analysis to an Ateneo de Manila epidemiologist, Dr. John Wong. (