Palace mulls verification of Arroyo doctors’ claimsBy TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang is considering tapping an independent medical expert to verify claims by doctors of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that her physical condition necessitates immediate treatment abroad.
“In the past we had sought credible medical opinion from a third party to verify claims from the Arroyo camp. I haven’t spoken to the President about it but I would imagine we’d do the same this time around,” Communication Secretary Ricky Carandang said in a text message.
By third party, he said, he meant “anyone qualified to make an objective evaluation whom we trust.”
Arroyo, now a member of the House of Representatives, faces charges of electoral sabotage in a Pasay City court and two separate cases of plunder and graft in the Sandiganbayan but is out on bail.
Arroyo’s doctors at the Makati Medical Center discharged her on Friday even as they said her condition had taken a turn for the worse, advising her to seek immediate treatment abroad.
Dr. Roberto Anastacio, a cardiologist, said the shifting parts of a metal brace on her cervical spine had become more “progressive and aggressive.”
He said this was causing her increasing difficulty in breathing and swallowing, and this could be fatal. He advised her to undergo immediate surgery abroad by specialists used to “repetitive reconstruction.”
Such a team of experts—composed of a surgeon, neurophysiologists, biomedical engineers and medical researchers—is not available in the Philippines, he said.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, senior political adviser to President Benigno Aquino III, responded by saying that the doctor’s claims should be independently verified.
“Remember, while the medical dimension is foremost, there are legal and political ramifications that also need to be looked into,” he said in a text Friday.
Abigail Valte, deputy presidential spokesperson, said differences of opinion over whether Arroyo could be treated here or not should be settled first.
“As already mentioned by Secretary Butch Abad, that will have to be verified independently. As regards the mechanism of verification, that will have to be discussed,” she said on radio Saturday morning. “The behavior of the government has always been to go for independent verification.”
She said that Health Secretary Enrique Ona was dispatched to personally check on Arroyo’s condition in the past. “I wouldn’t know if that will still be the case,” she said.
Asked if Ona would be asked to verify fresh claims by Arroyo’s doctors, Carandang said, “I don’t think he’s been asked in this particular instance but we certainly trust him.”
In November 2011, after Arroyo’s failed attempt to fly out of the country ostensibly to seek medical treatment abroad for her bone ailment, Ona went to check her and declared that there was no pressing need for her to do so.
Valte said she also heard Dr. Leo Olarte, vice president of the Philippine Medical Association, say on TV that the country’s doctors were capable of operating on Arroyo.
“So again, there is a difference in medical opinion. So as mentioned by Secretary Abad, that has to be settled,” she said.
Olarte said on a television program that Arroyo could get treatment from the country’s medical specialists and modern facilities.
Valte said it was premature to talk of whether the government would oppose any future move by the Arroyo camp to lift a hold departure orders issued against her by the Pasay regional trial court the Sandiganbayan.
“Let’s just wait until they actually make a definitive move to ask for travel authority,” she said.