For those of us who have known Juan Flavier as Department of Health (DOH) secretary and later as a senator, we can only thank our lucky stars to have witnessed what truly is a public servant because he exemplified it.
As health secretary from 1992 to 1995, he initiated many popular projects, including organizing Barangay Health Workers, the “Doctors to the Barrios Project,” which encouraged young physicians to serve in poor villages, the “Oplan Alis Disease,” which educated people about preventive rather than curative measures, the “Sangkap Pinoy,” which is a nationwide campaign against micronutrient malnutrition, and the “Yosi Kadiri,” an antismoking campaign. (For more about the “Doctors to the Barrios Project” and Dr. Flavier himself, please visit this link: https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/a-doctor-in-every-phl-town/
His famous battle cry “Let’s DOH it!” was typically Flavier’s, as it was meant for the welfare of the Filipinos.
His verve and determination to make things happen, often times curried with witty remarks, didn’t sit well at times with the leaders of the Catholic Church who saw Flavier’s advocacy for family planning and reproductive health methods as flawed and sinful.
Flavier, a Protestant, went head-on against the Church not because of difference in religious beliefs, but because his profession as a doctor knew what it takes to teach responsible parenthood to families and that cannot be expected from priests.
The Church accused Flavier of peddling promiscuity for his promotion of artificial contraception following his prescription or what he called his ABCs of safe sex: “A is for abstinence. If you can’t abstain, B for be faithful. And if you can’t be faithful, then use C for condoms.”
Flavier’s jovial demeanor and earnest campaign for better health care for Filipinos gained him so much popularity that he was asked by President Fidel Ramos to run for senator. Run he did, and won.
As he pioneered the country’s antismoking movement as health secretary, as a senator he authored Republic Act No. 9211, or the Tobacco Regulations Act.
According to reports, Flavier’s “Yosi Kadiri” campaign, the most successful tobacco control drive this country ever witnessed, catapulted a national consciousness about the harmful health effects of smoking.
Even when Flavier retired from politics still he issued a scathing remark in 2012 during the sin tax debates after Sen. Ralph Recto proposed to slash by half the P30-billion tax approved by the lower house. (Pease refer to this link: https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/sin-tax-bill-eliciting-controversy/)
“As a public servant, he championed the cause of countryside development and upgrading the quality of public health care,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said. “He served with integrity and endeared himself to the people by dint of his humility, simplicity, jovial character and common touch. Truly, he was an exemplary Filipino leader.”
This statement should humble those in the senate today, especially the actors and comedians among them.