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9 prognoses, 1 sick nation

STYMIED at the Church—including a gaggle of self-styled pastoral leaders’—real or imagined chokehold over Filipino voters’ necks, the 2010 crop of presidential hopefuls have woven their health platforms into the fold of religious doctrine. Their political intentions are likely to patch up potholes and pave the nation’s highway to hell.

With young Filipinos comprising over two-thirds of the 50 million voting populace, such tether over a once-young faithful flock has loosened—and many are cringing at the Church-State incest in national affairs.

Say, Pulse Asia’s Pre-Election Survey (PES) on Family Planning in February shows that 75% of the Filipinos think that it is very important or important for a candidate to include family planning in his/her program of action; 64% said they will vote for candidates who publicly promote modern methods of family planning.

The nationwide survey also shows that:
•90% of the respondents consider as very important or important to have the ability to control fertility, plan the family, space the birth of children and limit the number of children, with abortion excluded;
•87% consider as very important or important for government to allocate funds for modern methods of family planning such as pills, condom, IUD, ligation and vasectomy; and
•Only six percent will not vote for candidates who publicly promote modern methods of family planning, while 64% will vote for such candidates.

Olongapo City alderman-tuned-presidential candidate Juan Carlos de los Reyes of Ang Kapatiran has earned the nod of six Catholic bishops. In his first 100 days in office, he promised to focus on health care, education, labor, and peace and order. “I would like to have affordable health medicines in all barangay health centers in the country,” he said.

His most important move to promote women empowerment and gender equality as a councilor: he opposed the passage of the Reproductive Health Code that allots P3 million yearly for procurement of contraceptives—and no wannabe replacement to the current Malacañang top tenant would dare touch or toy with that Code.

Even over-the-hill actor and erstwhile numero uno Joseph Estrada of Pwera ng Masang Pilipino cozies up to the Church, sidetracking reproductive health and going instead for a promise “to invest in zero-to-five early childhood education-- early experiences shape whether or not a child’s brain develops strong skills for future learning, behavior and success.”

Estrada’s sole health care thrust is investing in early childhood education by mandating and supporting day care centers into incorporating kindergarten and pre-school education in their programs.

Independent candidate Maria Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Abad Santos Madrigal lone wannabe female president has yet to rock and roll her tail-ender survey ratings. Jamby’s health agenda takes a down-to-earth perspective in defense of farmers, farm workers and rural women: “restore the productivity, health, safety and well-being of farmers and farm workers by fighting deforestation, large-scale mining and air pollution from fossil fuels and its resulting siltation, extreme weather and destruction of lives and crops through massive flooding, by punishing and exacting reparations from its major foreign and local beneficiaries and perpetrators.”

For women, Madrigal wants to address “their special needs such as longer maternity leaves, breastfeeding facilities and breaks, and day-care centers.”

Frowning at a horribly unhealthy student-teacher ratio— 50 students per teacher in most public schools—Jamby seeks to “enhance occupational health and well-being of teachers by reducing the student-teacher ratio, enacting and regulations work standards that disallow work overload.”

Madrigal is also pushing transport worker health and safety and fight global warming via a “shift to environmentally-friendly fuels or energy in transport.”

Bagumbayan bet Richard Gordon-- “My name is Dick, but I’m not a ‘tator’”— transformed Olongapo City by boosting police accountability through I.D. systems, proper health and sanitation, waste management and the strict enforcement of color coding in public transport. He believes the controversial reproductive health bill can be fine-tuned-- and rather people should have the right to choose which methods to use for contraception— but not abortion.

He missed out throwing in a health agenda in his platform of governance and “manifesto for change.”

Preacher and Bangon Pilipinas stalwart Bro. Eddie Villanueva opts for government to do “organic farming, production of organic health supplements and organic medicine, as well as clothing and shelter by-products, for domestic consumption as well as for export.”

He deems “the health and welfare of women and babies is important to the state.”

Villanueva’s party platform lumps the health agenda with the thrust to elevate community living standards: “put up elementary, high school and or entrepreneurial schools therein, as well as health centers or lying-in clinics to address the most urgent school and medical needs of the community.”

Aside from cash dole-outs to urban poor parents for keeping their children aged 6-13 in school, Villanueva also wants additional token cash incentives for these parents who “regularly visit health centers (to develop a healthy citizenry).”

The Villanueva party stand on reproductive health: “the State, as the guardian and as the constitutional protector of every facet of human rights of every Filipino, should not, in any way, shape or form, interfere with the individual’s inherent right of discretion and/or right to choose which birth control measures, artificial or otherwise, he/she may deem proper and appropriate under his/her particular circumstances, and according to his/her faith or conscience.”

Nacionalista Party standard bearer and self-made real estate billionaire Manuel B. Villar, Jr. recommends a bigger budget to up the pay of government doctors and nurses. He stresses that if the government has to hire more personnel, “it should be nurses, not clerks.”

Villar opts for a more creative approach other than health insurance and would like a Thai model in which life-threatening diseases are being treated for free: “I want this program in which all hospitals will be able to provide free treatments such as chemotherapy and dialysis.”

Villar’s archrival for the Malacañang sinecure and approval ratings frontrunner Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” C. Aquino III had his health agenda cut out with a view to tackling three main health problems—“(1) inequity in access to basic quality care, which especially affects the poor; (2) lack of social protection from impoverishing health conditions, and (3) lack of strong and sustained promotion of preventive health as a multi-level, multi-sectoral and interagency responsibility.”

For his first 100 days in office, Aquino is set, among other plans, to declare “the 25 most essential drugs to be made available on all public health care facilities…” and call for public-private partnership for health, including the creation of a Presidential Health Commission to prioritize Department of Health budget for underserved areas, and identify these areas for national subsidy.

The Liberal Party health scheme calls for “a health professional in every health facility, increased equitable and effective investment for health” in a bid to make available and affordable quality medicines. Part of the party to-do list: “Government to import active ingredients for most essential drugs and to mobilize local pharmaceutical manufacturers to (manufacture such drugs) for government use.”

The Aquino health scheme plans to plunk down P9 billion for Philhealth enrolment of the poorest of the poor and to ensure nationwide health insurance coverage through mandatory Philhealth membership for all Philippine residents.

Too, the Aquino health plan seeks to up investments in health research and health regulatory capacity.

To ensure the nation’s health and wellness, the Nicanor “Nicky” Perlas-led Partido ng Marangal na Sambayanan (PANGMASA) proposes to:

•“Install a nationwide health insurance system, in cooperation with business and civil society, that allows the poor, with a minimal and easily payable premium fee, access to preventive medical approaches as well as primary, secondary, and tertiary medical treatment.
•“Task the Department of Health to install a nationwide system of holistic and preventive approaches to medicine.
•“Bundle health and nutrition services with educational objectives where appropriate; e.g. breakfast feeding and basic gardening programs in school.
•“Conduct a massive skills-oriented awareness campaign on sanitation, nutrition, and environmental health to lay the foundations of preventive approaches to health, and
•“Mobilize development partnerships with indigenous well-drillers, water system engineers, socially responsible businesses, community organizers from civil society to ensure that every community or family has access to clean sources of water."

The Gilbert Teodoro-led Lakas-Kampi-Christian Muslim Democrat Party lists (1) health, (2) education, (3) housing and (4) protection of the Filipino worker as top priorities in the party’s social development agenda. The Administration party envisions “a universal participative health care system (to) serve health and well-being of the Filipinos to afford quality health care for all. This shall be a cooperative undertaking between and among the national government, local government units, public and private institutions and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).”

It takes legislation to realize that goal, so the Teodoro-led party wants to enlist lawmakers in a bid to “provide 100% health care for the Philippine population, especially for the poorest among our poor, (by enactment of a law providing for) “a universal participative health care system that shall be cooperatively undertaken between and among local and national government, public and private institutions and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

“The program may adopt the principles of micro-insurance, which some companies and non-governmental organizations are already offering on a limited scale. This should provide the widest health insurance coverage to all our people at the least cost,” the party platform states.

Notes the Teodoro group: “In the early 1990s, public hospitals were hastily devolved to local governments. However, local governments were not ready to operate public hospitals and had neither the financial means nor the trained personnel to deliver health services. The hospitals were reverted to the national government but large portions of their budgets were devolved to local governments. The Health Department had little means to improve medical services.”

Setting sights on improved delivery of public health services at the grassroots, Teodoro is set to push for a rationalized regional hospital system and make private ventures into health care attractive to investors.

Nine wannabe-presidents, nine proposals for the nation’s health which the 1987 Charter recognizes as a human right.

Fact is, close to P200 billion was spent for health in 2005 that represents a measly 3% of the gross domestic product—the World Health Organization standard is 5% of GDP—and may be construed as a human rights violation… three of every five Filipinos who die unattended to by any health professional may seek solace and comfort in these campaign promises for a healthier nation.


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