DOH to those manning checkpoints: Physicians and doctors are the same

During the live streamed Department of Health (DOH) press conference on Wednesday, April 22, there were a few curious minutes when Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire had to explain that doctors and physicians are the same.

“Doctor or physicians  gusto ko lang po linawin, marami po ang nagsasangguni sa atin na sana linawin po natin na ang mga physicians po ay mga doktor din po. Ito po ay pareho lang na term. So yun pong mga naguguluhan, lalong-lalo na po sa mga borders na kailangan dumaan ang ating mga physicians, ayaw daw po silang padaanin dahil hindi nga po naiintindihan na ang physicians po ay doctor din po. So nililinaw lang po namin, ang mga physicians ay mga doctor din po sila,” Vergeire said.

(Doctors or physicians  I just want to clarify, because many have suggested that we clarify that physicians are doctors, too. They are one and the same. For those who get confused, especially those in the borders who would not allow our physicians to pass through because they do not understand that physicians are also doctors too, we are clarifying: physicians are also doctors.)

That she had to clear this up surprised some but others were thankful that the health department finally addressed this.

Doctors, of course, are among those authorized to leave their homes after the national government imposed a Luzon-wide lockdown since March 16 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

However, they have had the unique experience of having to explain – usually at checkpoints – to some policemen, traffic enforcers, and barangay tanods (village watchmen) that a “physician” means “doctor.”

Their Philippine Regulatory Commission (PRC) identification cards say “physician,” but some of those deployed to man the streets during the lockdown insist they have to see the word “doctor” on the IDs to be convinced.

Dr. Yasmin Zuñiga of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) said there had been times when she had to show her stethoscope to identify herself as a doctor.

“I don’t do it all the time, but it works,” Zuñiga told Rappler.

On April 21, Zuñiga’s friend, Dr Tere Ribano of the Asian Hospital and Medical Center and Makati Medical Center, posted on Facebook: “I need a sign that says ‘Physicians are Doctors / Physicians ay mga Doktor.’ That literally would save so much time at checkpoints.”

Under the post, Ribano’s friend narrated that, at the grocery, her daughter showed her PRC ID, “which said physician.” Still, the daughter was asked: “What kind? Nurse?”

Ribano told Rappler that posts and comments like these from doctors and medical workers are not meant to make fun of those assigned at the checkpoints.

She said she had also met other people who were unaware that doctors and physicians were one and the same.

“There’s so much we discovered now. That’s probably the saddest part,” Ribano said.

Because of the lockdown, we were surprised that there are Filipinos who do not know what should have been basic information  such as physician is a synonym of doctor. Because of the pandemic, we face anew the hard truth that from being one of the most literate countries in Asia, the Philippines has fallen so far behind. (READ: Philippines ranks among lowest in reading, math, and science in 2018 study)

We hope our national government and leaders are taking down notes and seriously address how stunted the Filipinos’ mental growth have become.







Nikko Dizon

Nikko Dizon is a freelance journalist specializing in security and political reporting. She has extensively covered issues involving the military, the West Philippine Sea maritime dispute, human rights, and the peace process.