Juan M. Flavier

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Juan M. Flavier (23 June 1935- 30 October 2014) was a Filipino senator and former Secretary of the Department of Health (DOH). During his term as health secretary, he launched projects such as “Oplan Alis Disease”, “Kontra Kolera”, “Stop TB”, “Araw ng Sangkap Pinoy”, “Family Planning”, and the “Doctor to the Barrios Program”.

Flavier was married to Alma Susana Aguila Flavier.

Early life and education

Flavier was born on 23 June 1935 to a poor family from Tondo, Manila. He was named after John the Baptist, whose feast day landed on the following day after his birth. He grew up in a mining community in Balatoc, Benguet and then Camp John Hay in Baguio City.

His father was a lathe machine operator while his mother was a one-time factory worker who wrapped bars of soap at the Philippine Refining Company and sold used clothes in Baguio. Juan was the second-youngest in a household of seven children – including two adopted brothers. It was said that he was the overachiever in the family.

He was a valedictorian of his class at the Baguio City High School and worked his way through college and graduated from the University of the Philippines (UP) with a degree in medicine in 1960. He attained his masters degree in Public Health from John Hopkins University.


After graduation, he shunned offers to work in the US and instead chose to be a doctor to rural communities in Nueva Ecija and Cavite. In 1967, he was recognized by the Philippine Jaycees as one of the country's Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM).

In 1977, he presided over the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM), a non-governmental organization dedicated to improving quality of life in rural areas of the country by offering educational, livelihood, and health programs.

He also served as president (1978-1992) of the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), an organization with the same founder and objectives as PRRM. Flavier was a student and protege of IIRR founder and Ramon Magsaysay Awardee Y.C. James Yen. Yen is a pioneer of China's Barefoot Doctors program, and Flavier himself became a barrio doctor for more than two decades.


In 1992, President Fidel Ramos appointed Flavier to the Department of Health (DOH) as its new secretary, on the basis of his experience in public health administration with PRRM and IIRR.

Under Flavier, the Philippines was declared a polio-free country by the World Health Organization, as a result of his nationwide immunization campaign, “Oplan Alis Disease”. Flavier was behind progressive DOH programs on nutrition (“Sangkap Pinoy”), AIDS awareness, family planning, and rural health, along with campaigns against cholera (“Kontra Kolera”) and tuberculosis (“Stop TB”).


Flavier became a senator in the 1995 national elections where he ran under the Lakas-Kampi CMD party. As a neophyte senator of the 10th Congress, he aspired to concentrate on his job. He earned the distinction of having attended the most number of committee hearings. He also have incurred no absences from the Senate sessions. As a senator, Flavier authored legislature to promote public health care and improve quality of life for Filipinos. He penned the Traditional Medicine Law, the Poverty Alleviation Law, the Clean Air Act, and the Indigenous People's Rights Act.

He was re-elected in 2001. He placed 2nd among the 12 winning candidates and immediately went to work on the first day of the 12th Congress where he filed Senate Bills 1-166. He continued to be an advocate of health, environment, and development issues. He authored and sponsored the RA 9160 or the Anti-money Laundering Act of 2001, RA 9177 or Declaring Eid ul-Fitr as a National Holiday, RA 9178 or the Barangay Micro-Business Enterprise, RA 9163 or the National Service Training Program for Tertiary Students of 2002, RA 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, RA 9168 or the Plant Variety Protection Act, RA 9173 or the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002 and RA 9211 or The Tobacco Regulation Act.

Flavier served as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography. As such, he pushed for reforms in health care delivery, health care regulation, and health care financing.

Flavier has written a number of books on his experiences working as a medical doctor for the rural reconstruction movements, and as a public servant.

Flavier for President

Flavier was a household name for his folksy charm and unbridled sense of humor. He was not averse to ribald jokes in different languages to illustrate and drive home his points about health and well-being of Filipinos.

In 2000, then-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo persuaded him to agree to being “floated” as a potential presidential candidate of the then-ruling coalition of Lakas. Flavier briefly flirted with the campaign. Within a week of landing on the front pages as a “presidentiable” and after getting the endorsement of former House Speaker Jose De Venecia, Flavier declared that he “did not have the fire in his belly” to aspire for Malacañang.

He retired from government upon the expiration of his second term in the Senate and served as a trustee at the Board of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth). He also served as a trustee for the SM Foundation.



  • Mobilizing Local Leaders for Rural Development: The Case of the People's School (IIRR working paper, 1980)

See Juan M. Flavier's available e-books at Vibe Bookstore.


Flavier died at 3:55 P.M. on 30 October 2014, succumbing to multiple organ failure brought about by pneumonia. He was 79.

On 10 September, he was brought to the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) when he appeared distracted. He was suspected to have been food poisoned but he was later diagnosed with pneumonia. He was brought to the intensive care unit (ICU) a day after where he stayed until he died Thursday afternoon.

He is survived by his wife, Susan, and their children Jondi, Johnet, James, and Joy, and their respective families. Flavier died sorrounded by his family, his former chief of staff at the Senate Rudy Quimbo, former staff member Ramon Navarra, former DOH undersecretary Susy Pineda Mercado, and former senator Orly Mercado.




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