Lagman questions PCSO funding for Bong Go-backed Malasakit Centers

Ian Nicolas Cigaral - Philstar.com
Bong Go
Since 2018, when the initiative began, 37 Malasakit Centers have been established as of July this year. The program was championed by Sen. Bong Go — a longtime aide of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Geremy Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay, 1st District) on Friday questioned the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s funding for Malasakit Centers, saying the one-stop shops for poor people asking for financial assistance from the government is a "partisan tool rather than a medical outlet.”

Since the initiative began in 2018, 37 Malasakit Centers have been established as of July this year. The program was championed by Sen. Bong Go — a longtime aide of President Rodrigo Duterte.

During the congressional deliberations on the proposed budget for 2020, Lagman said there should be a legal basis for the PCSO to finance the Malasakit Centers.

He also urged PCSO officials to investigate the Malasakit Centers’ ground operations and validate the effectiveness of the initiative.

“Kindly make a thorough validation and investigation of the operations of these Malasakit Centers because it is like a political partisan activity,” Lagman said.

Aside from the PCSO, other government agencies involved in Malasakit Centers are the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Health, PhilHealth and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

Go — whom Duterte repeatedly credited during the campaign period with conceptualizing the program — earlier filed Senate Bill No. 199 seeking to institutionalize the Malasakit Centers.

According to the explanatory note of that bill, the Malasakit Centers house "desk representatives from the Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office."

The bill, if passed into law, will require the establishment of Malasakit Centers in government hospitals "which shall serve as a processing center for all Philhealth concerns regarding coverage, billing, health benefits packages, patient navigation and referral to the health care provider network, and [as a] one-stop shop medical assistance to cover out-of-pocket medical expenses of indigent and poor patients."

The centers will be run by PhilHealth.

Last March, the Commission on Elections asked the Health department to remove all Malasakit Center posters bearing the name and picture of Go, who was then running for senator.

Responding to Lagman, PCSO general manager Royina Garma said the reason her agency provides funding for Malasakit Centers is to “streamline the services of all government institutions providing medical assistance.”

"It’s a one-stop shop in place sa hospital so we don’t want our clients to go to our branches and to ask for assistance," Garma explained.

“So we have people there to assist in the documents and then these are referred pa rin po, charged to our IMAP (Individual Medical Assistance Program),” she added.

READ: Duterte lifts suspension of STL operations

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