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Aquino accepts Ona resignation

President Benigno Aquino III (middle) and Health Secretary Enrique Ona (left).

President Benigno Aquino III on Friday accepted the resignation of Health Secretary Enrique Ona, Malacañang said Friday.

“Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. informed Health Secretary Ona that the President has accepted his resignation effective today,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

Reports said Ona submitted his resignation letter early this week, although there were reports he also filed a similar letter the day his month-long leave expired last Nov. 28.

The first one was reportedly declined by Aquino, which resulted in the extension of Ona’s leave.

Malacañang spokespersons Coloma, Edwin Lacierda and Abigail Valte, however, clarified the leave was “not indefinite,” or was only for the duration of Aquino’s review of the report Ona submitted.

Lacierda said he had no information on whether Ona indeed resigned since he had packed his belongings at the Department of Health (DOH).

According to the source, the cases were more about command responsibility or ministerial duties than corruption, as well as other issues raised by groups that Ona dealt with during his tenure as DOH chief.

The source said Ona was given a number of opportunities to explain, contrary to perception that Aquino treated him differently from the other Cabinet members who were implicated in controversies or even Philippine National Police chief Director General Alan Purisima.

Apart from the questionable vaccination programs, other Palace insiders say Ona will be facing graft charges in connection with a regional hospital in Luzon that underwent groundbreaking ceremonies by Aquino.

The establishment of the hospital, which is under the supervision of the DOH, didn’t push through, however, because Ona had reportedly refused to award the multimillion-peso project after his contractor-benefactor lost in the bidding.

Ona called his office Monday to gather his personal belongings and had them sent to his home in Pasig City, fueling talks that he was out of the DOH.

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