Press release – Action for Economic Reforms – 28 November 2012

Representatives of 41 health organizations signed a manifesto calling on Senators Ralph Recto and Bongbong Marcos to inhibit from the bicameral conference meetings on the sin tax bill.

The groups, representing well over 500,000 members of the health community, gathered at the Philippine General Hospital to sign the manifesto. Health Secretary Enrique Ona was also present to witness the signing.

Dr. Leo Olarte, Vice-President of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), led the signing of the manifesto and stated, “As members of the Senate, they [Recto and Marcos] must show impartiality and they must fight for the greater interests of the Filipino people, not just the interests of their region.”

“The fact that their trust has been questioned means you should give way and delicadeza should lead them to decline membership in the Bicameral Committee meeting,” said Dr. Antonio Dans, President of the Philippine Society of General Internal Medicine (PSGIM).

Dans also pushed for Bicameral meetings to be open to the public and the press, saying, “This is so that we can hold our senators and congressmen accountable for every word, every deletion, every insertion, and every attempt to steal from the people what belongs to the people.”

Ona, for his part, echoed Dans’ statements and added, “They can even mangle the law to the point that sometimes, those that have been agreed upon in the Lower and Upper House comes out almost unrecognizable.”

Ona continued, “It’s very important that we have the right people – the right senators and the right congressmen – to be included in the Bicam.”

“As health care professionals, we’re tired of seeing patients when there’s very little that we can do for them […] That’s why today you will see such a wide range of organizations,” said Dans. “From cradle to grave, we have this rare opportunity to save thousands of lives a year.”

Dans said that a unitary tax must be imposed “sooner rather than later.” He argued, “Why should we give them 1 or 2 more years so they can kill more people? We’re bargaining with people’s lives. We cannot allow that.”

According to Dans, out-of-pocket health expenditures totaled to an estimated P188.8 billion. “This [bill] gives back to the people what belongs to the people. That’s why earmarking is very important.”

One of the provisions in the Senate bill included a sunset clause on earmarking for Universal Health Care until 2016. Dans blasted the provision saying, “Are you saying that in 2016, the poor will start paying for their own health care again? Are you telling me that in 3 years, people will no longer get sick?”

Ona reiterated that the measure will enroll an additional 5.2 million families into the PhilHealth program and said, “Can you imagine if that money being earmarked will all of a sudden go into the General Appropriations fund [after 2016]? It will be disseminated into the whole pile of the budget.”

“This is the most important health bill that will ever be discussed in Congress,” stressed Ona. “This is a door of opportunity that will really give us the kind of healthcare that we’ve been dreaming of for all these years.”

“We are going into the very important last stage of this battle. I know if we continue with very strong pressure on our legislators, our senators will listen to us and to the voice not only of us doctors but also the entire [nation],” said Ona.

The list of organizations included: Philippine College of Surgeons, Philippine Medical Association (130,000 members), Philippine Academy of Rehabilitation Medicine, Asian Pacific Society of Hypertension, Philippine Coalition Against Tuberculosis (63 members), American College of Chest Physicians (Philippine Chapter) (120 members), Southern Tagalog Association of Medical Practitioners, Philippine College of Physicians (10,000 members), Philippine Lipid and Atherosclerosis Society (500 members), Philippine Society of Hypertension (2,000 members), Philippine Society of Medical Oncology (200 members), Philippine Society of Nephrology (800 members), Philippine College of Chest Physicians (1,500 members), Philippine Nurses Association, Philippine Society of Anesthesiologists, Philippine Society of Gastroenterology, Philippine Society of General Internal Medicine (800 members), Philippine Association of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeons, Inc. (117 members), Philippine Society of Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery, Philippine Society of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (102 members), Philippine Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism (250 members), Philippine Diabetes Association, Philippine College of Geriatric Medicine, Philippine Urological Association, Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, Philippine Neurological Association, Philippine Society of Newborn Medicine (80 members), Philippine Pediatric Society (4200 members), Philippine Ambulatory Pediatric Association (400 members), Philippine Academy of Pediatric Pulmonologists Inc. (100 members), Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (100 members), Philippine Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, Society of Adolescent Medicine of the Philippines, Inc. (100 members), Philippine Academy of Family Physicians, Kalusugan ng Mag-Ina, Inc., ANGNARS, Inc. (1,000,000 members), Philippine Society of Vascular Medicine (400 members), Asia Oceania Research Organization on Genital Infections and Neoplasia, Philippines (800 members), Philippine Heart Association (1200), Philippine Rheumatology Association.