Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was first published in Interaksyon.com on November 2, 2011.


Truth and lie are the same. They’re icing on the cake. What’s important is the cake. – former Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales

Mike Arroyo went to Germany for a heart check-up. He returned with news of a cure for his ailing wife. “I talked to a doctor specializing in stem-cell research,” he said.

Mike’s wife, Gloria, had undergone three surgeries for a problem involving her upper spine. The first operation was to correct a problem she had with her neck, the next two were corrective surgeries for problems that the first surgery caused.

The stem-cell treatment mentioned by Mike Arroyo is not for the titanium screws inserted in Gloria’s upper spine. Stem cells don’t work on titanium. The stem cells are for Gloria’s malfunctioning parathyroid glands.

Parathyroid glands are four pea-sized glands located next to the thyroid gland. They secrete the parathyroid hormone (PTH), which regulates the levels of calcium in the blood. In hypoparathyroidism the glands do not secrete enough PTH. This causes lower than normal levels of calcium in the blood. (Source: Methodist Healthcare.)

Hypoparathyroidism is the reason Gloria’s recovery from surgery is unusually slow. That’s according to her mouthpiece, Raul Lambino. However, Lambino is not a doctor. He is a lawyer. His only brush with medical practice was when he attempted to perform surgery on the Constitution using a dull scalpel called People’s Initiative for Charter Change.

The exact cause of hypoparathyroidism is unknown. It can be inherited, associated with other medical disorders, or may result from neck surgery. It affects males and females in equal numbers. It is seen more often in children under 16 and in adults over 40. (Source: Hypoparathyroidism Association)

Lambino also claimed that Gloria urgently needs “the intervention of medical specialists and unfortunately we don’t have one in the country.” Again, that’s a lawyer, not a doctor, talking.

There is no known cure for hypoparathyroidism. The standard treatment available is oral calcium and vitamin D. However, maintaining normal serum calcium levels can be a therapeutic challenge. (Source: American Society for Bone and Mineral Research). Because of that, some hypoparathyroidism patients are resorting to stem-cell therapy as a substitute treatment.

Be that as it may, George Daley, the director of stem cell transplantation at Children’s Hospital Boston, told a reporter writing about stem-cell treatment that “the only proven form of cell therapy is bone marrow transplant for leukemia patients.”

“Virtually everything else is highly experimental,” he said. “On one hand there are charlatans selling snake oil. At the other end of the spectrum are physicians who may be well-intentioned, but they’re misinformed if they’re giving patients stem cells before they’ve been proven to work.”

Nevertheless, stem-cell therapy is not voodoo medicine. It’s just that it will take a little more time to mature.

At this early stage, research and clinical trials are already producing startling results. The latest news headlines indicate that stem cells might cure even Gloria’s legal problems.

Gloria’s other mouthpiece, Elena Bautista-Horn, said, “We have doctors’ clearance to travel.”

What does that mean?

It means Gloria is strong enough to stand the rigors and stresses of traveling to five countries across three continents for medical consultations. It does not mean Gloria’s doctors strongly recommended that she seek stem-cell treatment abroad if not she will die. Hypoparathyroidism is a horrible disease but it is not fatal.

Gloria’s liberty is in jeopardy, not her life. The hype and hoopla about hypoparathyroidism and stem cells are meant to keep her out of jail. Stem cell versus prison cell.