Gerardo D. Legaspi, MD
Hospital Director, Philippine General Hospital
12 September 2020
Dear Dr Legaspi,
On the occasion of Ferdinand E. Marcos’ 103rd birthday, September 11, 2020, several news outlets reported that the office of Senator Imee Marcos distributed, in several public hospitals, Nutribuns in packages bearing the faces of both the late dictator and Senator Marcos herself. The Philippine General Hospital was one of the recipients of these donations.
This occurs as the Marcoses are waging a war of misinformation against the Republic in a bid to sanitize the dictator’s draconian legacy. They are winning: already, Marcos has been buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani and there is even a Congressional bill that seeks to legally codify the celebration of his legacy.
While we celebrate genuine acts of generosity in the face of the raging pandemic, we must also recognize this act of so-called philanthropy for what it is: a stunt meant to sanitize Marcos’ legacy. The original Nutribun project itself was emblematic of Marcosian corruption and credit-grabbing; though it was originally a project by USAID, it was co-opted and repackaged by Imelda Marcos as an initiative of the dictatorship. As such, to have uncritically accepted the Nutribun donations, each one bearing the likeness of the dictator, from the office of Senator Marcos is to be complicit in the Marcosian revision of history.
The UP College of Medicine’s vision statement positions the institution as “a community of scholars with a heightened social consciousness imbued with moral, ethical, and spiritual vigor, committed to the development of Philippine society, inspired by love, compassion, and respect for the dignity of human life; and anchored on the principles of Truth, Freedom, Justice, Love of Country, and the Democratic Way of Life.” Its mission, meanwhile, maintains that it is to be guided by moral, ethical, and spiritual values and that it intends for its graduates to serve the underserved. The legacy of the Marcos regime is antithetical to all of these.
To accept the whitewashing of the Marcos legacy is a glaring betrayal not only of the principles of PGH and the UP College of Medicine but also of the university’s history of militant opposition to the excesses of the dictatorship. Furthermore, it is contemptuous of the memory of our martyred alumni such as Bobby dela Paz, Johnny Escandor, and countless others who were brutalized by the dictatorship for having dared to serve the underserved; it is a total disservice to those who cared and shared for the oppressed.
It is, furthermore, a betrayal of our patients and the Filipino people. While the Marcoses built specialty hospitals in Metro Manila, ordinary Filipinos were made and continue to share stretchers and beds in regular hospitals. While regular citizens could barely access dialysis, the dictator commandeered 5 dialysis machines from public hospitals for his personal use. The Hippocratic oath urges the physician: first, do no harm. If so, how dare the Philippine General Hospital participate in the vindication of a dictatorship that tortured, maimed, and summarily executed those we have sworn to serve?
Rudolf Virchow tells us that “medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing more than medicine on a large scale.” In the first year of medicine proper, students from the UPCM engage with “Ang Kuwento ni Rosario,” and are taught to dissect the social and systemic factors that contribute to the disease process. We were continually exhorted to be Five-Star Physicians, whose tenets include being community leaders. We were trained not just to cure disease but also to participate in the wider society as advocates of health and life. It thus pains and disgusts us that the institution that molded us into physicians would turn a blind eye to the injustices that afflict our country right when we are called to do the opposite: to gaze unflinchingly at our afflictions, and to recognize them as such, that we may apply ourselves towards their eradication.
Marcosian historical revisionism is a cancer of society, and must be radically excised.
We therefore demand that the PGH Administration publish a statement that unequivocally condemns both the corruption and human rights violations of the Marcos regime as well as the current attempts to revise history in favor of the late dictator. We also call on the PGH Administration to avow that such attempts at historical revisionism and politicking will never again be tolerated in the national university training hospital. Finally, we exhort the PGH Administration to issue an apology for celebrating the birthday of a dictator and distributing Nutribuns with the Marcoses’ images to the hospital’s frontliners, as well as apologies to the estates and relatives of Dr dela Paz, Dr Escandor, and other Martial Law victims for having scorned their noble sacrifice.
The Philippine General Hospital must never again be used as a tool for historical revisionism in favor of the Marcoses’ or any dictator’s political rehabilitation. We cannot accept the alternative. This is what our mandate as doctors and public servants demands. This is what our fellow Filipinos are owed.
Now, more than ever, as another anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law came and went, the PGH must stand on the right side of history. The PGH must declare its position as an advocate of social justice. Anything less is unacceptable.
Ralph Fonte, MD UPCM Class 2018
Ani Batangan, MD UPCM Class 2019
Josh San Pedro, MD UPCM Class 2016
To everyone who agrees with this letter, you may append your signature to ours through this link.