Colleagues in the Senate of Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go manifested their support for the Malasakit Center initiative after Go delivered a privilege speech on Tuesday afternoon, August 27.
Go, in his speech, defended the Malasakit Center initiative, a continuing program of the Duterte administration that aims to provide quick and quality access to government healthcare services to all Filipinos, regardless of their age, sex, ethnic background, religion and political affiliation amid criticisms raised by Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman last week.
Senators who manifested their support include Sherwin Gatchalian, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, Francis Tolentino, Manny Pacquiao and Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Go refuted Lagman’s allegations that the Malasakit Centers being championed by Go are “a partisan tool rather than a medical outlet.”
Go said that when he was still the Special Assistant to the President, he presented the idea of establishing Malasakit Centers to President Rodrigo Duterte but has never used them for his personal interests.
“Nagkataon lang na brainchild ko ang programang ito. Ako lang po ang naatasan ng ating Pangulo para pangunahan ang programang ito. Inuulit ko: Hindi akin yan at hindi para sa akin ’yan. ’Yan ay para sa lahat ng Pilipino,” the Senator explained.
“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,” he said stressing that the Malasakit Center’s goal is to simply provide convenient access to quality healthcare for every Filipino.
Malasakit Center is a one-stop shop for government medical and financial assistance. Currently, 41 Malasakit Centers have been established in different parts of the country.
During the deliberations of the House Appropriations Committee on the 2020 budget on Friday, August 23, Lagman asked the officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) for a legal basis why the government-run corporation is providing funds for Malasakit Centers. Lagman also asked PCSO to validate the effectiveness of the centers and investigate them for being allegedly partisan.
In defense of the Malasakit Centers, Gatchalian said that the center in Valenzuela City, where he resides, has been beneficial to the city and even to the surrounding areas.
“Itong Malasakit Center ay hindi po tumitingin ng geographic location, hindi po tumitingin ng LGU. Ang tinitingnan po ay ang taong nangangailangan, kaya napakalaking bagay po ’yan sa aming lungsod, at hindi lang po sa aming lungsod kundi mga karatig-bayan ng Valenzuela,” Gatchalian said.
Pimentel also commended the Malasakit Center for being a good concept. “Ang Malasakit Center po ay isang magandang idea, one-stop shop para sa health concerns, and should there be birth pains in the concept, it is not proper to attack or criticize the person who conceptualized the idea. Hindi niya po kasalanan yon. Dapat ngang purihin siya at naisip pa at na-operationalize ang ganyang klaseng idea na one-stop shop for health concerns for our people.”
Zubiri and Pacquiao aired similar sentiments. “That’s the kind of situation we find in many times. Kapag may ginawa kang maganda, ang sasabihin nila eh epal,” Zubiri said. The Majority Floor Leader also requested for a Malasakit Center to be put up in his home province, Bukidnon.
“Di ko maintindihan ang mindset ng mga politiko sa Pilipinas. Kung maganda ang ginagawa para sa mga tao, kinakalaban ka, eh nakakabuti naman sa taong bayan. Kaya walang progreso, walang kaunlaran ang bansa natin dahil after ng administrasyon ng isang lider, kapag napalitan siya, hindi ipagpatuloy ang programa na maganda para sa taumbayan,” Pacquiao said.
Dela Rosa, who hails from Davao like Go, clearly expressed his support in a short message. “I would like to express my malasakit to my kababayan and support the substance of his privilege speech,” he said.
Tolentino shared that the establishment of Malasakit Centers is necessary because he has seen how local government units are having problems giving medical assistance to people. “Ang lahat po ng ating mga local officials ay nakatuon sa health services, subalit sa ginagawa po ng Malasakit Center, pinag-iisa na po ito.”
He added, “Tama po ang konsepto, lalo na na ang ating Senado ay nagtayo ng bagong committtee on sustainable development, at ang goal number three ay ‘good health and well-being in ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being for all ages essential to sustainable development.’” He said Malasakit Centers contribute to achieving the goal.
Go 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.”
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, and institutionalizing the initiative, ensuring its existence even beyond the Duterte administration. “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 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.”