Taking advantage of the ignorant
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - November 18, 2019 - 12:00am

Some people think they are smarter than others especially when trying to pull one over the other. I recently sent out someone to buy medicines and vitamins at the EDSA Crossing area where a drugstore is located. Part of the purchase was for a box of “Berocca” along with my maintenance medicines. It’s such a simple errand that I don’t even bother to check the receipts and change. But in this one instance I was surprised that the person I sent out came back with three different receipts. When I asked why there were three receipts, she explained that the lady at the counter gave one for the medicines that were on the prescription and were subject to the 20% senior citizen discount. The second receipt was for the medicines that had no prescription and therefore were not covered by the 20% senior citizen discount. The third was for the box of “Berocca” which the sales person identified as a sports drink and not subject to 20%.

Items under receipt number 2 were OTCs or Over The Counter type generics that did not require prescription and if they did require such, then the sales lady and drugstore should not have sold the medicines to the person we sent. Item number 3 called Berocca is labeled as “Vitamin B-complex + Ascorbic Acid + Calcium + Magnesium + Zinc. It is a highly recommended supplement for senior citizens as well as people recovering from the flu or cough and colds triggered by some virus. I am impressed at the extent of misrepresentation, manipulation even misinformation that drugstore personnel would go to just to circumvent the 20% senior citizen discount! This is just one of the many reasons why Secretary Francisco Duque should focus more on retailers when it comes to his search for solutions to make health care affordable. In his own words, Secretary Duque acknowledged the offer of the drug manufacturers to reduce their prices as a positive step but the issue at the end of the day is the excessive mark ups of retailers and drugs stores. Duque is apparently barking up the wrong tree.

If Secretary Duque wants cheaper medicines he and his team of advisers should spend more time investigating the price mark ups of drugstores, as well as hospital pharmacies. If the giant chain of drugstores has people who go to the extent of misrepresentation just to chip off P80 worth of senior citizen discount and go through the process of issuing three different receipts, how much more effort or profit would they burden us with? Let’s not get lazy by relying merely on a law such as the Cheaper Medicines Law because that law allows price control only on the basis or fact that there is a cartel, Mafia, or no competition in the market. There is competition between medicine manufacturers. However, the same cannot be said about retailers. There is one giant and lots and lots of little Indians or community drugstores and there has been no serious effort on to study or investigate how much they affect the final price of medicines. By the way, even government drugstores inside government hospitals as well as those in private hospitals have been accused of having a higher than usual mark up or profit margin. Secretary Duque should level the playing field, widen the benefit to patients and he can do this by leading the investigation.

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ART or Fart?  An activist representing the culprits who spray painted their political statement on a wall of the Quiapo Underpass, defended the vandalism of his associates by calling it art and even threatening there will be more. Ironically, when the perpetuators of the vandalism realized that their actions generated a lot of “Hate posts” and negative media, they allegedly apologized and even offered to meet with Manila Mayor Isko Moreno. 

For starters, true artists don’t apologize. The political graffiti made on the underpass wall is nothing new, it is ineffective, severely lacking in creativity, and typecasts the activists as having nothing new to offer. Given how other activists have progressed by way of stage plays, street plays, movies and documentaries, going back to vandalism is regression on the part of the authors. When so-called communists entered congress, I for one admired and appreciated the progress of activists from the hills to the streets to congress. I won’t try to tell the activists what to do or how to do their “work” but let me just point out that in the many decades I have viewed them from near and far, I have yet to see a season when they build things, inspire things, create things and become the change they want to see in this country. Try building up communities, businesses, and come up with solutions instead of just being perpetual critics, rabble-rousers and vandals.

I am reminded of a good friend who had dedicated her life fighting mining and defending indigenous people. For many years I helped her as I could but after a while I simply got tired of listening to the criticisms, the anger and the mistrust. One day, I simply asked her: “Where is the love in what you do?” All I see is anguish, anger and pain. That question startled her and led her to an attitude change that enabled her to respect other people’s view, find compromises and eventually work with, even those she once did not trust. Today’s youth are far more intelligent, far more connected by the Internet to rely on antiquated, ineffective tools and strategies. Be the change or you will fall into the vicious circle of frustration.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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