As the first Secretary of Health under the restored democracy, Dr. Bengzon had the difficult task of reorganizing the Department of Health, restoring its soul and spirit and delivering it through a tense transition. His previous training in Business Management gave him the proper tools to execute the crucial role dealt by destiny. In his 5 years of administration, he carried out the transition successfully and carried the DOH to new heights of energy and achievement. With handpicked managers doing meticulous and systematic target-setting, planning, information processing and resource management, the discipline and order resulted in more effective delivery of services.
During his term, “disease detectives” of the Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP), that also had a sentinel surveillance system, started to investigate and sort out epidemics and diseases. Full infant immunization coverage soared from a low of 21% to more than 80% in 3 years. Secretary Bengzon also championed the National Drug Policy Program (PNDP). In addition to programs, there were many other major improvements in the DOH system at this time. The central office buildings were renovated and DOH entered into the whole new world of computers and fax machines. The many programs and projects initiated during Secretary Bengzon’s term included the following, among others: Control Of Acute Respiratory Infections, Control of Hepatitis B, Polio Eradication, National AIDS Prevention and Control Program, Non-Communicable Disease Programs (like the Cardiovascular and Cancer Control Programs), and the Philippine Health Development Project (PHDP).
Secretary Bengzon was also designated as the Peace Commissioner tasked with the formulation of the government’s comprehensive peace strategy. He also served as a member of the Philippine-negotiating panel on the American bases.
The second half of his term, however, became controversial when he pushed the Generic Law amidst opposition from the medical practitioners and drug manufacturers, an inevitable conflict by the wary nature of the law. Paradoxically, Secretary Bengzon received international recognition for his work in PNDP. Also, the field health staff never quite understood how a powerful and influential man who successfully advocated for a highly controversial Generic Law could be so helpless against the Local Government Code of 1991.
Secretary resigned to run for a senate seat, but fell short of his goal by a few thousand votes. Many reckon the above-named factors prevented him from achieving his target.