ZFF hands awards to Alilem LGU, 19 leaders

In a span of 10 years, the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) has laid the groundwork in advocating for a leader-centric approach in solving societal inequities, particularly those relating to health.

In those years, ZFF has successfully built a network of Health Bridging Leaders ready to work together to create more responsive health systems for the Filipino people, especially the poor.

To celebrate its 10-year journey, ZFF will recognize individuals who have stood out among the rest, and who have exceptionally manifested Bridging Leadership qualities that resulted in improved health outcomes.

In May this year, the ZFF called for nominations for Outstanding Barangay Leader in Public Health, Outstanding Bridging Leader in Public Health, and LGU Excellence in Public Health Governance.

Nominations for Department of Health officers and local chief executives, health officers, and government units were carefully reviewed. They were evaluated and scored based on their submitted nomination forms, Bridging Leadership Competency Assessment, and LGU scorecards. Below are short profiles of the awardees.


LGU Excellence in Public Health Governance


Region 1

Alilem is a fouth-class municipality in Ilocos Sur located between Benguet and La Union. During rainy season, 11 of its 14 barangays are inaccessible to motor vehicles. This problem with road access, coupled with social norms, cost of maternal services, disproportionate number of midwives to barangays were the reasons women choose to give birth at home and forego the services of skilled birth attendants in the birthing facilities.

Spearheaded by Mayor Mar Ruel Sumabat, the local government unit (LGU) of Alilem worked to improve the women’s health-seeking behavior. A local ordinance was passed to strengthen the LGU’s advocacies to improve the rate of facility-based delivery (FBD). Health expenses of indigent families were sponsored by the LGU.  All indigent pregnant mothers who were non-PhilHealth members, as well as all indigent couples who underwent marriage counselling sessions, were automatically enrolled by the LGU. To ensure access to health services, a midwife was hired for every barangay. An Inter-Barangay Transport Vehicle Referral System was established that utilizes designated point persons to coordinate vehicle use for emergencies.

From only 75% FBD in 2013, this increased to 100% in 2017. Zero maternal death was maintained in the same period.

Outstanding Bridging Leaders in Public Health


OIC-Undersecretary, Public Health Services Team (Present)

Former Director, Regional Office 1 (2012-May 2018)

Department of Health

Dr. Myrna C. Cabotaje is the first Department of Health (DOH) regional director who passed the Health Leadership and Governance Program (HLGP) Institutionalization and Coaching Policy in the country.

As a regional director, she fostered the institutionalization of HLGP in Region 1. She aligned the DOH Region 1 HLGP policy to the Sustainable Development Goals and the country’s health agenda to ensure sustainability and improve coaching protocols in support of the practicums of the governors, chiefs of hospitals, municipal mayors, and provincial and municipal health officers.

She grouped the DOH division chiefs to lead the cluster teams in provinces to improve technical capacities and encourage easier ways to address existing and emerging health issues. She spearheaded mentoring sessions among guiding coalitions and the Provincial DOH Offices to strengthen the Service Delivery Network and improve staff performance and accountability.  She was also the first to train her coalition in systems thinking.

Under her watch, Region 1 reached the DOH targets for maternal mortality ratio and targets/rates for facility-based deliveries, births attended by skilled health personnel, contraceptive prevalence and infant mortalities. The region also achieved the national targets for safe water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Among her recent recognitions are the Diego Silang Award for her contribution in the attainment of the Millennium Development Goal 4 in 2016 and the UP Medical Alumni Society Inc. Outstanding in Community Service/Public Health Award in 2015.




Health Leadership and Governance Program Coordinator

Department of Health Regional Office IV-B

For over two decades in the Department of Health Regional Office IV-B, Anna Birtha Datinguinoo braved the complexities of government bureaucracy and intricacies of political dynamics and maintained a positive work environment for her team.

Her leadership has fast tracked the improvement of regional health outcomes. Through the region’s participation in the Change Management Program of the Zuellig Family Foundation, she was able to push for the creation and mobilization of a guiding coalition. With this, she influenced her team and even her regional director to think out of the box and explore new arrangements for more responsive program interventions.

Through her Bridging Leadership for Palawan initiative, she was able to co-establish a convergence team in the province composed of provincial health office personnel, the governor and local provincial leaders, and other key stakeholders. She co-facilitated the Health Leadership and Management Program in the provincial government hospitals, as well as the DOH-retained hospitals to effectively surface the internal issues and concerns and efficiently take steps to address them. She has also conducted BL appreciation workshops for partner agencies such as DILG, PhilHealth, DepEd, DSWD and PopCom, taking into account their important roles in creating a more sustainable health system in the community.




Health Leadership and Governance Program Coordinator

Department of Health Regional Office XII

Working for over a decade now with the Department of Health (DOH) Regional Office XII, Heideliza Chio knows very well the needs and challenges in her region. Complemented by her persistence in communicating and creating strong partnership with local government units (LGUs), non-government organizations, government agencies, and with her colleagues in the DOH, she was able to turn these stakeholders as co-owners of the health problems.

Her hard work paid off when the Health Leadership and Governance Program (HLGP) of the DOH engaged 37 out of 48 municipal LGUs, and 85% of the region’s barangays. As a result, partner municipalities were able to contribute to better maternal health outcomes in the region, particularly the decrease in maternal mortality, from 76 per 100,000 population in 2015 to 58 in 2017.

With the initial results, she continues to uphold her commitment in institutionalizing HLGP in the region. She conducts annual peer learning forums designed to strengthen the capacity of DOH management officers in coaching and mentoring health leaders at the local level. She also pushes for the inclusion of coaching in the Individual Performance Commitment and Review system of the DOH, as well as for the integration of the HLGP in the human resource processes and policies.



Development Management Officer IV

Department of Health Regional Office 1

When May Berbardine Belardo completed her Bridging Leadership training in 2014, she immediately applied her learnings in her assigned areas. By being part of the local health board, she was able to convince the local chief executives in three municipalities of Ilocos Sur to enroll in the Municipal Leadership and Governance Program. She then co-owned the challenges in her areas, and was able to coach and mentor effectively the mayors, and the municipal health staff by communicating a sense of urgency that translated into immediate action. Prior to the program, the local government units (LGUs) were non-participative when it comes to health. Health service delivery has been the sole responsibility of the health unit. Using the leadership roadmap as a guide, the LGUs were able to achieve notable milestones in terms of leadership and governance, health financing and health information system. Community leaders were trained on Bridging Leadership under the program, thus, were able to develop responsive action plans included in the Municipal Investment Plan for Health. Further, use of barangay health data boards were sustained and serve as bases for improving health service delivery in every community.



City Mayor

Candon, Ilocos Sur

Dr. Mayor Ericson Singson was at the helm of providing health services in his private clinic when he agreed to run as mayor of Candon, a fourth-class city in Ilocos Sur. A doctor by profession, health, naturally, is one of his many priorities. He knew co-creating solutions to health problems was not only limited between him and his city health officer, so the city’s health board was expanded to include representatives from government hospitals, non-government organizations, and the Association of Barangay Captains. Through the increased cooperation of barangay leaders, the city’s health vision was easily cascaded to the communities: “Healthy families for a healthier community.” Medical and dental missions held in 42 barangays provided a one-stop access to the city’s health programs and services including tax assistance, agricultural support, livelihood, and registries. This also served as platform for the communities to voice their opinion through the open forums. Each of Candon’s 42 barangays has a functional barangay health station and has 5% of its internal revenue alloted for health. Candon has met and surpassed the DOH’s health personnel-to-population ratio. The city has 3 doctors (1:20,658 people), 14 midwives (1:4,423), and 5 nurses (1:12,395). Candon also secured a 6–in-1 accreditation with the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.



Municipal Vice Mayor (2016-Present)

Former Municipal Mayor (2007-2016)

Santa, Ilocos Sur

In 2007, Jeremy Jesus DP. Bueno III was 25 when he became the mayor of Santa, Ilocos Sur. Early in his term, Bueno showed interest in health by having it as one of the components in his priority disaster risk program. Realizing the need for more systematic approach in leading and governing, he strived for self-growth and continuous learning, which included a Certificate Course in Community Health Development from the Baguio State University after he completed the Municipal Leadership and Governance Program. From concretizing municipal health plans and expanding local health board, he continued leading change by engaging barangay leaders and seeking their participation in crafting barangay health governance plans. As a result, barangay health governance bodies were formed and a system for barangay health worker recruitment was identified. Municipal health budget from the internal revenue allotment was at 16%, while barangays health budget was at 5% in 2017. Rates for facility-based deliveries and births attended by skilled attendants are both 100% as of second quarter of 2018. The municipality has also maintained zero maternal death from 2015 up to second quarter of 2018. Among the innovative programs under his watch is the Santa SMILES Program that deals with issues in four major groups: health, nutrition, and social services; infrastructure, economy and employment opportunities; governance, peace and order, and environment; and education and capacity building. Bueno finished his third term as mayor in 2016 and now serves as the vice mayor.



Municipal Mayor

Concepcion, Iloilo

Engr. Milliard Villanueva of Concepcion, Iloilo put premium in networking and collaboration for improved health outcomes. Concepcion is a third-class municipality which used to suffer from water-borne diseases and parasitism. In 2013, 208 cases of diarrhea and two deaths were attributed to poor environmental sanitation. Villanueva understood that with only six out of 10 households owning sanitary toilets, ending open defecation is a goal he could not achieve alone.

Upon expanding his municipal health board, Villanueva created task forces to address the open defecation in barangays. He partnered with the Iloilo provincial government and other non-government organizations for toilet bowls provision and construction. Accompanied by his team’s extensive promotion and advocacy during meetings with village leaders and Association of Barangay Captain members, community health summits and municipal gatherings, he was also able to move the whole community to decrease the number of water-borne diseases and parasitism.

In 2017, 90% of households in Concepcion have their own sanitary toilets, water-borne diseases and parasitism dropped by 50%, and no deaths attributed to poor sanitation was recorded. In the first quarter of 2018, 64% of barangays were conferred with the Zero Open Defecation certification.



City Mayor

Kidapawan, Cotabato

In his bid to improve the health outcomes in Kidapawan City, Joseph Evangelista banked on the participation of the 40 barangays in the city. Upon expanding the barangay health boards, Evangelista sought the voices of the poor through the Kapehan sa Barangay, an informal conference to discuss health concerns. He ensured he intimately knows the status of their health outcomes by being present in the presentations of barangay roadmaps. To further encourage the barangays, he launched the Performance Challenge Fund competition to award outstanding barangays in health service, financial accountability, and transparency, among others. He fostered inter-barangay collaboration through the Big Brother/Big Sister program, a strategy where better performing barangays assist other barangays mimicking how big brothers and sisters help their siblings.  Evangelista addressed technical challenges by providing training opportunities for all midwives in Basic Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care, equipping barangay health stations medical equipment and supplies, increasing the number of heath personnel, and allocating funds for honoraria and benefits of barangay health workers and nutrition scholars. As a result, Kidapawan City has shown significant health progress in the last five years. Facility- based delivery and skilled birth attended rates have increased to 99% in 2017.  Maternal death was reduced to zero (except for one case in 2015). Its five-year average for infant mortality rate (2.52 deaths per thousand live births) is below the national average of 19.7 deaths per thousand live births.



Municipal Mayor

Del Carmen, Surigao del Norte

When Alfredo M. Coro II took over as mayor of Del Carmen, Surigao del Norte in 2010, health system was poorly established. Malnutrition was present and deaths due to dengue, childbirth, poor sanitation, among others, were on the rise. Coro did not settle for traditional ways of doing things to address the health concerns of his municipality.  He started the Seal of Good Health Governance Program, an initiative for monitoring improvement in health outcomes in barangays, which was later on replicated in other municipalities across the country. This innovation has garnered recognitions from the different government agencies and organizations including Health Governance Award (Kaya Natin Movement- 2015); Galing Pook Award (2015); and Social Innovation for Health Initiative Award 2017. The Seal of Good Health Governance Program ensured health outcomes are checked and health programs are evidenced-based. Furthermore, the barangays are given renewed interest to keep aspiring for improved health because of the incentives under the program.  As a result, in only three years, almost 99% of pregnant women in Del Carmen were given services in all stages of pregnancy.  Sanitary toilets were also present in 88% of households with many barangays achieving 100%. The LGU was also able to provide access to safe water to 87% of its households.



Municipal Administrator (Present)

Former Municipal Mayor (2007-2016)

Dao, Capiz

Joselito “Bo” Escutin of Dao, Capiz begun his leadership journey believing that health is solely the expertise and responsibility of the municipal health officer. Staying clear of meetings and discussions on health, the 2009 Health Leaders for the Poor (HLP) program was instrumental in changing his perspective and making him realize his crucial role as a Bridging Leader to improve the health outcomes in Dao. With the help of the Office of the Municipal Agriculture and the Municipal Health Office, Escutin spearheaded the program for Indigenous Supplementary Mixture to help combat malnutrition. INSUMIX is a highly nutritious product created by combining ground monggo and sesame. In his flagship program, Nanay Buhay Bata Alagaan, the barangay mobilized their tanods in the masterlisting of pregnant mothers, health education, and referring women in labor and the sick children. Escutin mobilized the barangays under the Leading and Managing Health Innovations, a multi-sectoral and participatory governance initiative aimed at responding to the Millenium Development Goals, namely: to reduce child mortality, to improve maternal health, to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, and to ensure environmental sustainability.



Municipal Vice Mayor

Dao, Capiz

Dao is a fourth-class municipality in Capiz that relies heavily on internal revenue allocation, support from nongovernment organizations (NGOs), additional funds from national agencies and donations from balikabayan residents.  With limited resources, Vice Mayor Loreto Eslaban underlined the need for solutions that are high impact and will require minimum resources. Since the expansion of the municipal health board was followed by the activation of local school board, the Busog Lusog Talino (BLT) Program was launched in school to target school children with malnutrition. Eslaban oversaw the preliminary roll out of the BLT Program in selected schools, while advocating for improved school attendance. The program, therefore, became a way for the local government unit (LGU) to respond not only to malnutrition but also to children’s education. To further strengthen the LGU’s program in public schools in Dao, Department of Education district supervisor was also invited to be a member of the expanded local health board.  Using the same creative reasoning as BLT Program, Eslaban supported the inititatives that links households to the Food Always in the Home (FAITH) program and the agriculture projects of the town, ensuring that the poor school children never get hungry at home.



Municipal Health Officer

Concepcion, Iloilo

Out of the 25 barangays in the third-class municipality of Concepcion in Iloilo, 11 are island communities, making health service delivery a great challenge. When Dr. Helen Minguez started as municipal health officer in 2001, maternal health service utilization in Concepcion was very poor, as evidenced by high incidence of home deliveries attended by traditional birthing assistants. She stepped up her efforts to address the challenges, and eventually received Department of Health recognitions for outstanding delivery of maternal and child health services. But even if she has done so much for her hometown, she never stopped improving herself, believing that a good leader must be well equipped and empowered to gain the support and commitment of her staff and other stakeholders.

Minguez believes her journey in the Municipal Leadership and Governance Program, together with her mayor and municipal planning officer, widened her understanding on how the local health system affects the performance of the local government unit. She immediately worked on how to improve the LGU roadmap. Aware that participation of community leaders is poor in some areas and collaborative efforts are needed to make changes in the community, she used the Community Health Summit as a platform to challenge the barangay stakeholders to do their share. She capacitated the community leaders which resulted in increased awareness of barangay health status through their roadmaps. Their increased involvement prompted solutions that led to local health system improvement. Minguez initiated a performance evaluation system by recognizing best barangay performers with certificates and cash awards they can use to augment their budget for health.



City Health Officer

Kidapawan, Cotabato

Dr. Jocleyn Encienzo recognizes the importance of team approach in the delivery of health services, bearing in mind the unique contribution of each member toward improvement of the health system. Her deep concern for the welfare of the health personnel moved her to lobby for the approval and provision of the Magna Carta for their health workers. She has led multiple stakeholders in creating health solutions, like partnering with City Council for the Protection of Children to address increasing number of teenage pregnancies. Inspired by the Municipal Leadership and Governance Program, and having the local government unit roadmap for health as guide, Encienzo challenged herself to improve the health status of Kidapawan City to make it more accessible to the poorest in the community.  One of her notable contributions to bringing health services closer to the barangay people is the conduct of “Buntis Caravan sa Kidapawan City” in clustered barangays, where comprehensive mobile medical consultations were done twice a week, with simultaneous mobile blood donation. This has sustained high maternal health service utilization rates in Kidapawan City since 2015, with no maternal death in the past two years.



Municipal Health Officer

Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat

A native of Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat, Dr. Gilson Laspiñas has been serving the municipality for almost 15 years. Under his leadership, the Rural Health Unit is ready to serve the poor with its 7-in-1 Philippine Health Insurance Corp. accreditation, with complete service package for all life stages including mental and adolescent health. To counter the increasing number of teenage pregnancies, he pushed for the establishment of an adolescent-friendly teen health center, the only facility with Level 2 accreditation in the province. Laspiñas acknowledges the importance of team work. He articulates target results, sets parameters, determines support needed, and sets times to conduct progress reviews along the way. He shows sincerity, and communicates face-to-face for both positive and negative performance efforts.

He finds ways to address health challenges by innovating with other stakeholders. He ensures community leaders take part in the solution and are held accountable for health programs by engaging them in dialogues. He made sure community health plans are integrated into the Municipal Health Investment Plan, which was approved and endorsed by the Local Health Board for a 15% budget allocation in 2017. Among the health programs under his leadership is the “Buntis Kilatis” which delivers quality, efficient and free laboratory examinations, classes, service transportation during ultrasound and delivery, birthing home tour, and dental checkups to all pregnant mothers. The municipality was able to maintain zero maternal and infant death and above 90% for facility-based deliveries and births attended by skilled professional from 2013 to 2017.



Municipal Health Officer

Dao, Capiz

Dr. Humblelyn Horneja has been serving Dao, Capiz as municipal health officer for almost 30 years. Among her achievements is the successful adoption of the Wireless Access for Health (WAH) Program which initially proved to be difficult as 70% of midwives and health workers were beyond 50 years old with limited computer skills. To motivate them to learn, she joined in the hands-on training. With a clear vision and committed team, they were able to make the WAH functional in a few months’ time. Horneja always use the community-based approach in implementing health innovations. The Nanay Buhay Bata Alagaan (NBA) is one of the municipality’s flagship innovations. She captured barangay leaders’ passion by working on the vision of better health outcomes for Daonhons through reduction of maternal deaths. She mobilized the barangay health board members as part of NBA teams, including barangay tanods and mothers in barangays.  She capacitated them in the masterlisting of pregnant mothers, conducting health education program and in creating a system of referral, particularly for pregnant mothers and children during times of delivery or sickness.  This initiative has sustained zero maternal death in the town since 2010.



Municipal Health Officer

San Pablo, Zamboanga del Sur

As the municipal health officer of San Pablo, Zamboanga del Sur, Dr. Hermeraldo Catubig Jr.  focused on eliminating maternal deaths, which, in 2009, peaked at 774 per 100,000 population rate. He sought the support of the municipal local government unit officials through the local health board and pushed for health budget increase.  As a result, roads and half-way homes were constructed so expectant mothers from upland communities can have better access to birthing facilities. He advocated for ordinance regulating the trained birth attendants and health workers on Safe Motherhood and Child Health Program. As a result, the municipality maintained zero maternal death since 2014.


As a bridging leader, he empowers San Pabloanons by letting them participate in the decision-making and implementation of health programs. In their bid for a national award on sanitation, he saw the need to capacitate community leaders, which he later mobilized as barangay sanitary workers. He implemented the use of sanitary spot maps in each barangay, which was later used and updated by barangay officials to monitor household access to sanitation. Through the concerted efforts of different stakeholders, 14 of 28 barangays in San Pablo are national awardees for best sanitation practices.


Outstanding Barangay Leaders in Public Health


Barangay Paypayad, Candon, Ilocos Sur

Barangay Captain Juan Soliven was one of the beneficiaries of Candon City’s Barangay Health Leadership and Management Program in 2014 when community leaders were trained to functionalize their health boards. Being the leader of a community from a fourth-class city and cognizant of the challenges it brings, he has been able to strengthen his social capital, which is vital in improving health service delivery in his own barangay. He was very serious in implementing the barangay health system roadmap, a tool which guided his barangay health board in identifying system gaps, and created necessary action steps to address them. He leads in tracking their progress and enjoins critical stakeholders not only in making them cooperate but also in making them accountable for results. He also uses monthly health board meetings and semestral barangay assemblies as an avenue for two-way learning between him and his fellow barangay leaders.

Soliven was also notable for his accomplishment in terms of collaborating with non-government organizations, leading to augmented resources for the delivery of health-related initiatives, particularly targeting pregnant mothers and malnourished children in his community. Up to now, he continues to inspire his co-leaders, as well as other barangay leaders by sharing his good practices, and by underscoring the importance of leadership toward meaningful and strategic collaboration.




Barangay Tambaliza, Concepcion, Iloilo

Recognizing the wisdom in concerted and intersectoral approach to address the health priorities of his community, Barangay Captain Judito Gaquit knew he needed to share his vision with his barangay constituents. He actively participated in the identification of the major health priorities in Barangay Tambaliza, which is composed of two islands in northeastern Concepcion, Iloilo. With more than half of the canine population not vaccinated with anti-rabies, the barangay health board distinguished it as one of the top health issues needed to be addressed.

Under his leadership, budget for community mobilization and for sustainability of the Rabies-Free Zone project was allotted. He created a task force to effectively plan and implement the necessary steps to achieve the shared vision of a rabies-free barangay. He personally supervised mass dog immunization and management of stray dogs. He coached members of the barangay council and volunteer workers in order for them to help in rabies control and prevention. Under his leadership, dog immunization coverage increased to 97% in 2017. An islet named Sombrero Island, a sitio of Tambaliza, was also declared as rabies-free zone in 2018.



Barangay Calunasan, Mlang, Cotabato

Serving her barangay for three consecutive terms Engr. Trinidad Cañizares has gained the trust of her co-leaders. When she was trained on Barangay Health Leadership and Management, she was able to apply systems thinking and maximize her potential to collaborate and innovate. Soon enough, Barangay Calunasan was able to implement a No Smoking Policy under her leadership and was the recipient of the Barangay Red Orchid Award in 2016. Even with the backlash coming from store owners, she showed persistence in negotiating and enjoining critical stakeholders. She was able to communicate clearly her vision for her community, and uses open dialogue as a platform to engage stakeholders. All these were critical in the successful implementation of the policy in her barangay, which brought down the number of smokers from 177 to 30. Under her watch, Barangay Calunasan has been recognized by the municipal health office as the barangay with the lowest malnutrition rate (2017) and for its best performance in implementation of maternal and child health, non-communicable disease, and nutrition programs in 2016.


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