August 26, 2019
SEN. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go will not stir so much interest and controversy over his espousal of Malasakit Centers if he takes care to firmly remember two things:
First, he has now been elected to a legislator’s seat in the Senate, he is no longer a member of the Executive branch, although he belongs to the same political party as President Rodrigo Duterte. He holds no office in the Office of the President.
Second, the campaign to win election to the Senate in the May elections is over. This is now the time for governing, both for members of the legislature, and members of the executive branch.
Malasakit Centers sound like they are part of an ongoing program or policy of the Duterte administration. But in point of fact, the centers have not been institutionalized by law or executive order.
Malasakit was principally an interesting campaign gimmick on which Mr. Go hung his campaign for a Senate seat.
By the measure of electoral success, Malasakit was effective. But Go should not assume from this that Malasakit is now an official policy of the government, or that government is now committed to establish Malasakit centers across the country.
It is not a policy or an explicit program of the administration.
The criticism that Senator Go is now getting for his perennial talk about the Malasakit Centers arises principally from his preening for public support and the blurring of distinctions between: 1) his role as onetime aide of President Duterte and his new role as senator of the republic; and 2) the line between campaigning for election and governing.
It has been wisely said that campaigning is “adversarial,” while governing is “collaborative.”
Unless formalized by legislative enactment, the Malasakit Centers can justifiably be criticized as a partisan activity, designed to curry public support for the administration or to sustain support for the newly elected Senator Go.
What really are the Malasakit centers?
The Malasakit program, initiated by Go when he was still the top aide of President Duterte, established centers in government hospitals to serve as one-stop shops for the aggregated medical assistance granted by different government agencies.
Go claims that the Malasakit initiative is a continuing program of President Duterte. It is a tool for the speedy delivery of medical assistance to needy citizens by the government.
In response to Congressman Lagman’s inquiry about the legal basis for the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s (PCSO) alleged funding of Malasakit, Go explained that the PCSO was just one of various agencies in Malasakit Centers that aid poor patients. The other agencies are: Philippine Health Insurance Corp., the Department of Health and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
The question now is whether the government should formally adopt Malasakit as a part of the national public health care system. That is a decision for the President to make together with his health managers. And that is a policy that will require support from Congress, if it is desired that Malasakit should be supported by public funds.
As they are constituted and operated now, the Malasakit Centers should not displace the ongoing programs and services of various health agencies and hospitals.
There are as of now 41 Malasakit Centers throughout the country. That is only a minuscule part of the entire archipelago. So, Malasakit is plainly not yet a national program.
Because of his recent effort to help some 953 fire victims in Cainta, Rizal, Senator Go has lately been talking about the creation of a Department for Disaster Resilience and the establishment of evacuation centers.
Providing emergency relief from disasters is a totally different function from that of providing effective health care to the people through an effective public health system.
Congress and the executive should be wary of schemes to combine and fuse functions and services with one another. Every scheme should pass first the test of effectiveness and rationality.
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