MANILA - The House of Representatives health committee on Wednesday approved a substitute bill seeking the institutionalization of Malasakit Centers, Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go's pet project that was dubbed by a left-leaning lawmaker as a "partisan front."
The substitute bill will be endorsed to the full House of Representatives for action. It replaced 18 proposed laws for the institutionalization of Malasakit Centers, which Go, a former longtime aide of President Rodrigo Duterte, said were “one-stop shops” for indigent patients.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, however, earlier said his constituents complained that representatives of participating agencies like the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, and the social welfare and health departments are sometimes absent from Malasakit Centers due to alleged lack of personnel.
The representatives, he said, also lack authority to make assessments for partial or full payment of hospital bill balances, so beneficiaries of Malasakit Centers are just referred to the main local offices of participating agencies, where they have to again queue in long lines.
"The financial assistance to indigent patients is already covered by the Universal Health Care Act and the referral system can be undertaken by the very hospital, with organic social workers, where the patient has been confined and treated without need for any intervention by the Malasakit Centers which have been used as partisan fronts," he said.
Go, for his part, said Malasakit Center applicants do not need any endorsement letter from politicians.
"Hindi ang Malasakit Center ang pumipili ng bibigyan ng tulong. Ang mga ahensiya rin tulad ng PCSO (Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office) ang maga-assess kung magkano dapat ang ibibigay na tulong pinansyal," he said in a statement.
(The Malasakit Center is not the one that chooses who will receive help. Agencies like the PCSO assess how much financial aid should be given.)
-- With a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News