MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang has a solution to hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who depend on Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) subsidies for medical care: write to other government agencies.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo gave the suggestion in a news briefing on Tuesday, July 30, following public concern over the impact of President Rodrigo Duterte's closure order on PCSO game outlets on the agency's ability to fund its social programs.
Thousands of Filipinos who line up at PCSO's Individual Medical Assistance Program outlets all over the country can get the same assistance by merely writing to agencies like the Office of the President, Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Department of Health, and even their local officials, Panelo said.
"Hindi na sila kailangan pumila (They don't have to line up).... All they have to do is make a request. Office of the President, Pagcor, department of social welfare, kahit sa DOH puwede eh (even to the DOH)," he said.
PCSO general manager Royina Garma had earlier said that the government corporation's medical assistance program would continue providing subsidies but that the funding may only last until the end of the year.
The government had yet to present a plan on how it planned to shore up PCSO funds, given Duterte's order to stop all its gaming formats, the PCSO's main source of revenue for its medical assistance program.
Duterte's verbal order did not state the duration of the gaming operations' closure.
'The poor are creative'
Some 450,000 Filipinos benefited from the P7.9-billion medical subsidies from the PCSO's program in 2017, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III had said.
With the fate of this program uncertain, it's not clear if the agencies Panelo mentioned – OP, DSWD, DOH, and Pagcor – have enough resources to absorb the needs of would-be PCSO beneficiaries. He added that local officials such as mayors and congressmen, have the "duty to help their constituents."
Instead of explaining in detail how this would be done, Panelo expressed confidence that poor Filipinos were "creative" enough to find other sources of medical help.
Asked what would happen now to poor patients who have no one else to turn to than the PCSO, he said: "Lalong-lalo na ang mga mahihirap, mas magaling ang mga mahihirap doon sa mga maykaya kasi 'yung mga mahihirap, sanay sila sa hirap so mas creative sila kaysa sa mga taong nasanay na mabuhay sa kayamanan."
(Especially the poor, the poor are better than the rich because they are used to hardship so they are more creative compared to those used to a life of wealth.)
As with PCSO lotto workers who stand to lose their livelihoods over the presidential order, Panelo cited the "human spirit" of indigent Filipinos with health problems that, he believed, would help them overcome the odds.
As a 2016 presidential candidate, Duterte had promised to ensure that the poorest Filipinos would have better access to medical assistance. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.