Press Release
June 19, 2020

Be like Rizal, treat pandemic as medical issue, implement Universal Health Care law: Pangilinan

ON Jose Rizal's 159th birthday, Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan said the country should approach the COVID-19 pandemic as a medical issue and fully implement the Universal Health Care law.

"The pandemic is principally a health problem and the solutions must be health-centric. Kung buhay pa si Dr. Jose Rizal ngayon, siguradong ganyan din ang itutulak niyang solusyon," Pangilinan said, noting that the national hero was a medical doctor.

"That's why I will not support any suggestion to postpone the implementation of the UHC law. Ngayong pandemya kailangang-kailangan ito, ngayon pa i-po-postpone?" he said in response to PhilHealth president Dick Morales's statement to the joint oversight that PhilHealth may have to postpone the UHC law implementation as it suffered heavy losses due to COVID-19.

"The pandemic is first and foremost a health crisis, and the response must be health-centric. All actions, especially by government because of its leadership position, must be about ensuring that everyone is healthy, and that those who get sick will be treated," he added.

The senator said that he, together with his colleagues in the Upper Chamber, can work with government on finding sources for the UHC law implementation. He said there may be foreign and local funding source for the P220 billion that Morales said is needed to cover the deficit for this year and their projected needed government assistance for next year.

"The source of our increasing COVID cases, low contact tracing numbers, low testing rates, and high mortality rates, especially among health workers, is the lack of government focus on the problem. Let me reiterate: the problem is health, the solutions must be health-centric," Pangilinan said.

Pangilinan also pointed out that while in exile in Zamboanga, Rizal became a farmer, highlighting the direct relationship between agriculture and health. There, he also built a school, a hospital, and a water supply system -- all essential services.

"Dapat ganyan din ang pagtingin natin sa pandemic, opportunity to create a better normal and to focus on correcting what has been wrong with our systems involving essential services, instead of wasting precious resources on the non-essential like the anti-terror bill and even federalism," the senator said.

Relatedly Pangilinan urged young people to "continue asking the hard questions about how our beloved country is run. Draw inspiration and courage from Rizal, who wrote exquisite poems and satirical, revolutionary novels to expose the truth."

Rizal studied medicine in Europe and specialized in the eye so he could treat his mother. There, he became exposed to the liberal ideas of democracy and freedom.

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