Corruption scandals amid pandemic: When doctors shout for change | Inquirer News

Corruption scandals amid pandemic: When doctors shout for change

By: - Content Researcher Writer / @CeBacligINQ
/ 07:15 PM October 15, 2021
A hospital worker joins protests against delay in release of benefits by the government which came in the middle of scandals about misuse of COVID funds

A hospital worker joins protests against delay in release of benefits by the government which came in the middle of scandals about misuse of COVID funds. FACEBOOK FILE PHOTO: ALLIANCE OF HEALTH WORKERS – AHW NATIONAL

MANILA, Philippines—A manifesto issued by the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) last week calling for an end to alleged mishandling of COVID funds and attempts to stonewall an investigation has been uniting doctors and members of the medical community.

The manifesto titled “A Collective Expression of Indignation and the Call to Action”—which recently came out as a full-page ad in the Philippine Daily Inquirer—has gained support from over 300 doctors and health care workers, including five former health secretaries.


These were former Department of Health (DOH) chiefs Esperanza Cabral, Paulyn Ubial, Carmencita Reodica, Manuel Dayrit, and Enrique Ona Jr.

PCP president Maricar Limpin and the long list of previous PCP presidents likewise supported the move.


Former government health adviser Dr. Tony Leachon was also among the prominent names on the list, as well as former president of PCP and aspiring senator Dr. Minguita Padilla, and Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 (HPAAC) spokesperson Dr. Antonio Dans.

“We shout out our indignation and intolerance to what is happening! We will no longer compromise the truth for what we have been conditioned to believe to be true but clearly isn’t, we shall not go down the slippery slope of decay as a nation,” the manifesto read.

“We cannot go on fighting for every Filipino’s life and health if we cannot work together—because we are afraid, because we are severely handicapped, because we are in pain – physically and psychologically, because our numbers are dwindling,” it continued.

READ: Doctors come out of their shells, demand end to corruption, incompetence in COVID handling

This week, doctors and medical leaders from one of the country’s premier hospitals came out in the open to support the manifesto. But the biggest organization of doctors in the country chose to distance itself from it.

MMC doctors join the movement

Top Makati Medical Center (MMC) officials and hospital staff on Wednesday (Oct. 13) expressed support for the manifesto expressing a collective call for an end to the ineffective and corruption-ridden pandemic response.

In a statement, the MMC staff announced that its medical community, the MMC Medical Staff Association, and doctor-members of the MMC Board of Directors fully support the medical professionals and medical organizations and societies’ call for the pursuit of truth in the alleged irregularities transactions by the government using COVID-19 funds.

“Makati Medical Center (MMC) has been at the front line of this COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020. And until today, the MMC community of physicians, nurses and other allied health care workers has been confronting the vicissitudes brought upon us by this vicious virus,” the MMC staff statement read.


“We thus cannot stand idle on any issue affecting our community of healthcare workers,” it added.

Graphic by Ed Lustan

Both the manifesto and the statement by MMC were issued amid the ongoing investigation by the Senate blue ribbon committee on transactions between the DOH, Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM), and Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp. which involved up to P11 billion worth of supply contracts for medical supplies in 2020.

MMC said it supports the ongoing Senate probe and denounces any effort to prevent and block the search for the truth on the alleged misuse and misappropriation of pandemic funds—which the MMC staff said was “every Filipino’s hard-earned money.”

“We support all efforts to resolve this alleged pandemic malfeasance earnestly so that those who sought to enrich themselves while our health care workers confronted death and destitution will be meted the harshest punishment to the full extent of the law,” the MMC staff said.

“We deem unconscionable any attempt to amass ill-gotten wealth amid a pandemic. We find heartless any ‘whiff of corruption’ by anyone who has been entrusted with the solemn duty of protecting the healthcare community,” it added.

The MMC staff, however, clarified that it was by no means meddling in politics.

Graphic by Ed Lustan

“This is our health care community being trampled upon by greed and corruption,” said the MMC staff.

“These are our health care workers battling the pandemic. To remain quiet is acquiescence and subservience to avarice,” it added.

According to MMC director Dr. Saturnino Javier, the “carefully crafted” statement “reflects the sentiments of the signatories who participated in the active discussion of its contents.”

Aside from Javier, among the names of signatories on the statement were:

  • Dr. Jay Arnold F. Famador—president, MMC Medical Staff Association
  • Dr. Benjamin N. Alimurung—member, Board of Directors
  • Dr. Victor L. Gisbert—member, Board of Directors
  • Dr. Conrado Gabriel C. Lorenzo—member, Board of Directors
  • Dr. Michael C. Wassmer—member, Board of Directors

While many doctors from the MMC expressed support for the statement, Javier clarified that it does not represent the views of MMC as an institution.

“It is shared by many physicians in the Makati Med community,” Javier told

“It does not in any way purport to reflect the sentiments of those NOT indicated in the statement,” he added.

‘Proceed with caution’

While PCP and other medical organizations and societies continue to receive overwhelming support for the protest statement, the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), the country’s primary medical group, distanced itself from the movement.

Graphic by Ed Lustan

In a statement issued on Tuesday (Oct. 12), the PMA — which takes pride as the largest organization of doctors in the country — said it respects and values its members and does not interfere with the individual views and positions of its members or affiliated organizations.

“It recognizes the right to free speech and the right to air grievances,” the association said.

However, PMA chose to be cautious on the issue and explained that it would exercise “extreme prudence” before addressing current issues “in order to represent the best interest of all of its 80,000 members.”

The association explained that any document showing a statement or support for any statement “should reflect the sentiments of its members. ”

“As such, the PMA national officers and board of governors exercise extreme prudence before issuing any statement especially if such may prove divisive and detrimental to the organization in general,” the statement read.

PMA also said that as an independent body, it chooses to “rise above partisan politics” and will not back any unproven accusations.

Not a form of passivity

While PMA chose not to join the group of doctors on their collective call for an end to ineffective and corruption-ridden pandemic response, the association denied that it was promoting passivity among its members.

This was in contrast with the manifesto issued by PCP earlier, which brought light to what medical leaders, along with other health care workers and members of the medical sector, described as a “long-standing passivity” among members of the health profession.

Passivity, as Leachon previously explained, pertains to the silence driven by fear among medical professionals amid the country’s worst crisis.

Instead, PMA urged its members to “participate in arriving at solutions rather than add to the country’s problems.”

“The PMA encourages its members to stay informed, to be discerning to be involved, and to engage in the process of nation-building,” the PMA statement read.

“Its members are reminded to be upright diligent, sober, modest and imbued with professionalism, to work with harmony and mutual respect at all times,” it added.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday (Oct. 13), Leachon posted a copy of the statement issued by PMA and quoted American print and broadcast journalist Germany Kent in the caption.

“To say nothing is saying something. You must denounce things you are against or one might believe that you support things you really do not.”

In the comment section of his post, Leachon commented on the PMA’s statement.

“You can’t ignore the massive alleged corruption. Nothing personal. No politics,” he said.

“To me, it’s either you’re on the side of evil or good,” said Leachon, a former government adviser on COVID response.

“If you do nothing, then Dante is correct,” he added, referring to a famous quote attributed to Florentine poet Dante Alighieri—“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

In a separate statement, Leachon noted the “apathy and lack of proactive measures” from PMA.

“If they don’t recognize there is a problem and then turn a blind eye, then you are an accomplice to perpetuating a crime especially if it is the highest organization that should defend doctors,” he said.


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TAGS: cornavirus Philippines, coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19, DoH, frontliners, HCWs, healthcare workers, INQFocus, Makati Medical Center, medical frontliners, medical leaders, Pharmally, Philippine Medical Association, PMA, Saturnino Javier
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