Lagman calls Malasakit Center a 'partisan tool,' Bong Go retorts

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 23 2019 07:20 PM

MANILA - Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman on Friday said the Malasakit Centers of the Duterte administration should be investigated, calling them a “partisan tool” whose creation has no legal basis.

President Rodrigo Duterte credits his long-time aide and now Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go for the establishment of Malasakit Centers, which is billed as a “one-stop shop” for indigent patients.

Lagman made the call to have Malasakit Centers investigated during a budget hearing attended by Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) officials before the House Appropriations Committee on Friday.

During the hearing, Lagman asked PCSO General Manager Royina Garma for the legal basis of the establishment of the Malasakit Centers. 

Garma said the PCSO provides funds to the centers to “streamline the services of all government institutions providing medical assistance.”

“Our office is represented in the center because it is composed of different agencies that provide charity support funds,” Garma said.

Not satisfied with Garma’s answer, Lagman said: “I think there should be a legal basis for you to fund these Malasakit Centers. There is a need for you to investigate and validate the effectivity of these Malasakit Centers because it is more of a partisan tool than a medical outlet.”

Lagman also revealed he received complaints about the centers.

Appropriations Committee Vice-Chairman Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo asked Garma to submit her answer in writing.

In a chance interview after the hearing, Garma clarified that the PCSO does not fund the center.

“Malasakit Center is a one-stop shop. We are not funding the center. We are funding the clients who go there to ask for medical assistance. We don’t give the fund to the center.”

Garma said aside from the PCSO, the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. and the Department of Social Welfare and Development are also represented in Malasakit Centers.

GO: MALASAKIT CENTER NO PARTISAN TOOL

Go denied Lagman’s allegation, saying Malasakit Centers were established to efficiently provide medical services to indigent patients.

“[Sa Malasakit Centers] walang partisan o political considerations, walang pinipili na tutulungan, hindi kailangan ng anumang endorsement letter o ID mula sa pulitiko,” Go said in a statement.

(In Malasakit Centers, there are no partisan or political considerations and it does not select who to help. There is also no need to present an endorsement letter or an ID from a politician.)

“Ito po ay isang solusyon ng Duterte administration para sa libu-libong Pilipino na humihingi ng tulong sa gobyerno para lang magpagamot. Pera niyo po ito, ibinabalik lang sa inyo.”

(This is a solution of the Duterte administration for the thousands of Filipinos seeking help from the government for their medical needs. This is your money being returned to you.)

Go also backed Garma’s assertion that the PCSO does not provide funds to the centers.

“All these agencies retain their medical assistance programs, with their separate funds even if they are part of the Malasakit Center,” he said.

“Malasakit Center is just a streamlining mechanism para mapabilis ang pagbigay ng serbisyo medical at pinansyal sa mga mahihirap na mga pasyente.”

(Malasakit Center is just a streamlining mechanism to expedite the provision of medical and financial aid for indigent patients.) 

Go added he would not object to any investigation on the centers.
He also told Lagman that a Malasakit Center was established in his home province of Albay and that his son Vice Gov. Grex Lagman attended its inauguration.