Responding to the criticisms made against Malasakit Centers by Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman, Senator Bong Go said it is Lagman, and not the Malasakit Centers, who is using medical assistance for political purposes.
“Uulitin ko para sa ating mga kababayang nakikinig—pera po ninyo ito. Hindi ito pera ng sinumang opisyales. Pera ito ng gobyerno na dapat lang ibalik sa inyo sa pamamagitan ng maayos na serbisyong medikal,” Go said in a recent Senate privilege speech, stressing that the Malasakit Center’s goal is to simply provide convenient access to quality healthcare for every Filipino.
The legislator claimed that Lagman, along with other politicians, require endorsement from barangay officials before assisting patients.
“May iba ding mga politiko diyan, tulad niya, na nagbibigay ng endorsement o humihingi ng endorsement galing sa barangay leaders bago tumulong,” the lawmaker said in the first privilege speech he delivered.
“Balita ko pinapupunta mo pa sa bahay mo ang mga tao para mag-avail ng benefits o assistance,” the senator said while presenting a copy of an endorsement letter that Lagman’s office purportedly gives to patients to be shown to hospitals.
“The concerned government agencies retain and run their own medical assistance programs.”
“Now, that is partisan politics,” he added.
Go also noted that he has never required such processes and he does not choose the people whom he helps.
“Never ako nag-require ng ganyan. Never ko pinagpilian ang taong tutulungan ko,” he said.
Earlier, Lagman said at that the Malasakit Center is being championed by Go as “a partisan tool rather than a medical outlet.”
During deliberations of the House Appropriations Committee on the 2020 budget, Lagman asked officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) for the legal basis on why a government-run corporation is providing funds for Malasakit Centers. The seasoned lawmaker also asked PCSO to validate the effectiveness of the centers and investigate these for being allegedly politically partisan.
Malasakit Center is a one-stop shop for medical and financial assistance. Currently, 41 Malasakit Centers have been established in different parts of the country.
Go clarified in his speech that, contrary to what Lagman’s statements implied, the PCSO is not funding the operations of Malasakit Centers, and that it is only one of many government agencies that provide medical assistance to patients as part of the “one-stop shop” program.
“In Malasakit Centers, the concerned government agencies retain and run their own medical assistance programs. The center only simplifies the process and eases the burden on the patients. Ang nag-aaccess ay ang qualified social worker. Walang kinalaman ang Malasakit Center sa desisyon ng agencies na tumutulong,” he added.
Go said Malasakit Centers have a “proper queuing system and express lanes for senior citizens and people with disabilities” so that “Filipinos will no longer have to endure long lines and fill out piles and piles of forms just to get medical assistance from the government.”
“The Malasakit Centers are still a work in progress.”
He admitted that while the Malasakit Centers are still a work in progress, much more have benefited from the program.
“While there may have been birth pains in its operations, mas marami po itong natulungan kaysa nagreklamo,” Go said.
He also said that concerns raised against this continuing program of the Duterte administration is the same reason why he filed Senate Bill No. 199 which seeks to establish Malasakit Centers in all government hospitals all over the country to complement the Universal Health Care Law.
“This is, in fact, the very reason why we would like to institutionalize the Malasakit Center program through a proposed measure we filed just last month,” Go said.
He called for his fellow lawmakers to support the measure.
“Kaysa dumada lamang po tayo at sayangin ang buwis na ibinabayad sa atin ng mga Pilipino, magtulungan na lamang sana tayo para maipasa ang Malasakit Center Act, gawing mas maayos ang proseso at mas marami pang Pilipino ang makinabang dito,” Go stressed.
He further said Lagman was being anti-poor for attacking Malasakit Centers.
“Congressman Lagman, do not be anti-poor. Ang pera ng tao, nararapat lamang na ibalik sa tao. Mahiya kayo sa mga constituents ninyo. Mahiya kayo sa milyun-milyong Pilipinong natulungan na ng programang ito.” Go said.
He also asked Lagman to temper his words, recounting how his province of Albay was one of the first to benefit from the program, and that his son, Vice Governor Grex Lagman, was himself present during the launch of the 15th Malasakit Center in Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital, Legazpi City last Oct. 14, 2018.
“Naturingan pa man din siyang public servant pero hindi niya pinag-aaralang mabuti ang mga sinasabi niya. Ni hindi niya man lang naisip na isa ang kanyang probinsiya sa mga kauna-unahang nakinabang sa programang ito ng gobyerno. Nandoon pa po ang anak niya na si Vice Governor Grex Lagman sa launching ng Malasakit Center sa Albay para magwitness sa proyektong ito,” Go said.
He added that if the move to criticize the program was for anyone’s political gain, the senator said that critics should just give it up because the PCSO does not “fund aesthetic enhancements or any cosmetic purposes.”
“Kung plano po ninyong humingi ng tulong para magpa-pogi, hindi po nagbibigay ng tulong ang PCSO o Malasakit Center para sa pagpapaganda o pagpapagawa ng mukha,” Go said.
He emphasized that the Malasakit Center program is one of the solutions of the Duterte administration to provide quick and quality access to healthcare to all Filipinos, regardless of their age, sex, ethnic background, religion and political affiliation.
“Kung gusto mo, palitan mo nalang ang mga ito ng sarili mong programa. Pangalanan mong ‘Manhid Center’, ‘Maramot Center’—bagay na bagay sa kawalan mo ng malasakit sa ating mga kababayan,” Go said addressing critics like Lagman who he says should not deprive the people of the kind of service they should get from their government.
“Ako ay isang simpleng probinsiyano lang po–isang hamak na taga-Davao at taga-Mindanao na binigyan ng pagkakataon na magserbisyo. Pero lahat ng Pilipino, kahit sinuman, iniintindi at tinutulungan ko. Minsan lang ako dadaan sa mundong ito kaya gagawin ko ang tama, gagawin ko ang aking trabaho. Ipaglalaban ko na maisabatas ang panukalang ito, maisasaayos ang mga programa ng gobyerno, at mas makatulong tayo sa lahat ng Pilipino,” Go said.