By Senator Bong Go
Country’s future leaders will need to exemplify the President’s vision and political will in order to continue the progress he began.
It has never been more crucial for every Filipino to participate in our democratic process as we prepare for our next elections. The good news is that we have time to evaluate and consider who will lead our country for the next six years.
If you ask me, when it comes to selecting our next leaders, I prioritize continuity. The Duterte administration has raised the standard in terms of responsiveness to the needs of the Filipino people.
Only a leader possessing the same political will as that of President Rodrigo Duterte can keep this momentum going despite the pandemic and crises that came our way.
Having worked for the President for more than two decades, I have seen how his love for his kababayans has led him to make sound policy judgments that have encouraged me to do the same.
For one, it has exposed me to the stressful and demanding process Filipinos go through just to get government assistance for medical bills. Residents from neighboring provinces used to come to Davao City Hall for medical assistance. The Commission on Audit, however, informed us that Davao City funds could not be used to assist residents from neighboring provinces.
But the President, who was the Davao City mayor at the time, could not bear to turn away fellow Filipinos seeking assistance in our province. These interactions inspired me to envision the one-stop shop for all medical-related assistance for our fellow Filipinos.
The Malasakit Center began as a convergence initiative of the Office of the President in 2018 in coordination with the Office of the Presidential Assistant to the Visayas. The first center of its kind was established in Cebu.
It brought together the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Health, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office under one roof.
Republic Act 11463, or the Malasakit Centers Act of 2019, which I authored and sponsored, was eventually signed by President Duterte in December 2019. It mandates the establishment of the centers in every Department of Health-run hospital nationwide and in the Philippine General Hospital in Manila.
Other public hospitals can also establish their own Malasakit Centers provided they meet the standard set of criteria and guarantee the availability of funds for the center’s operation.
There are now 141 Malasakit Centers in the country since the program began in February 2018, with the latest opened on 16 September at the West Visayas State University Medical Center in Iloilo City.
As we open Malasakit Centers all over the country, mishaps are unavoidable. Back in 14 August, as we were about to attend the launch of the 135th Malasakit Center in Basilan General Hospital, the helicopter we were riding encountered problems. Fortunately, no one was hurt and we landed safely.
While it was a harrowing experience on my part, I can say that I am not afraid to die, especially if it happens while doing something that can help save the lives of others. It is an honor to die in service of the country and our fellow Filipinos.
Last Friday, 26 September, I also personally checked on the medical frontliners and conducted a monitoring visit in the Malasakit Center at the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center in Cotabato City. I also witnessed the groundbreaking for a new temporary treatment and monitoring facility for Covid-19 patients in the said hospital. After the visit, I joined President Duterte on the same day in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat for the inauguration of the new Sultan Kudarat Provincial Hospital, which also houses another Malasakit Center.
That same day, I also virtually attended the 120th Police Service Anniversary during which I expressed my gratitude to our uniformed personnel for their dedication to safeguard the welfare, well-being, and way of life of our people. I am certain that through this commitment, we, as a nation, can continue to fight illegal drugs, criminality and corruption in our society.
Regardless of all the trials, difficulties and risks, I shall not cease in serving our people to the best of my abilities. This is my commitment and mission moving forward.
It is also why, from 21 to 26 September, my office continued to visit many of our kababayans across the country. We provided additional support while concerned agencies extended their programs to benefit those in need.
In Davao City, we helped thousands of residents from the barangays of Communal, Angliongto, Tigatto, Waan, Mandug, Callawa, Acacia, Sasa, Hizon and Pampanga. In Cebu City, my team aided a total of 281 fire-hit families in the Barangays of Labangon, T. Padilla, Duljo-Fatima, and Sta. Cruz. Two families affected by a fire incident in Infanta, Quezon were also assisted by my office.
We also assisted a total of 5,234 displaced workers in the towns of Medellin and Tabogon in Cebu Province. We sent similar assistance to various sectoral groups in Leyte composed of 5,085 individuals from the towns of Barugo, Tunga, Mayorga, Javier, Burauen, Jaro, Santa Fe, Pastrana, Tacloban City, Kanaga, Merida and Palompon.
My team also delivered assistance in Zamboanga del Sur: 3,000 individuals in Pagadian City, 4,133 in Kumalarang and 1,012 in Bayog. In Nueva Ecija, we aided 3,888 displaced workers and patients in Licab. We also aided 1,000 residents of San Narciso, Zambales; 512 in Daram, Samar; and 1,000 in Polomolok in South Cotabato.
Finally, in Metro Manila, my team aided 15 fire-hit families in Quezon City; and six families in Pasig City, and 201 market vendors in Valenzuela City.
As to our ongoing vaccine rollout, as of 25 September, a total of 43.8 million Filipinos were inoculated against Covid-19, of which 23.6 million got their first dose and another 20.2 million Filipinos completed the vaccine doses.
As his term draws near, rest assured that President Duterte will continue to work hard to accomplish his plans for the benefit of the Filipino people. And as we select and support the country’s next leaders, I hope that we all clamor for continuity of the positive change initiated by the Duterte administration.
Programs and projects, such as infrastructure development in the country through the “Build, Build, Build” program, law enforcement decreasing crime rate, achieving long-lasting peace and development in the countryside, and improving our health systems are just some of the achievements that our next leaders must sustain.
To accomplish these, the country’s future leaders will need to exemplify the President’s vision and political will in order to continue the progress he began and in recovering from this pandemic toward delivering a truly comfortable life for all Filipinos.