Press Release
October 25, 2020

"Call it Juan Flavier Medical Scholarship, but first don't cut its budget"

President Duterte should sign the Medical Scholarship Bill into law next month so whatever required funds to implement it can still be included in next year's national budget, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said.

Recto is also proposing that the scholarship be named after Juan Flavier, the barrio doctor who pushed for the Doctors to the Barrios program when he became Health secretary and senator.

"But before we attach his great name to a great program, let us first make sure that the law's maiden year of implementation is not marked by a budget cut," Recto said.

The senator was referring to Malacañang's proposal to halve this year's P167 million financial subsidy to 1,789 medical scholars to P83.5 million next year, the amount in the Commission on Higher Education's (CHED) proposed 2021 national budget.

Worse, according to CHED, this year's P167 million financial stipend to medical students in eight state universities has been impounded "for later release," Recto said.

The schools are Bicol University, Cagayan State University, Mariano Marcos State University, Mindanao State University, University of Northern Philippines, UP Manila College of Medicine, UP Manila School of Health Sciences, and Western Visayas State University.

"So embargoed ngayon, cut bukas," Recto said.

The CHED scholarship program in 8 SUCs is but one of the tracks the Congress-approved bill creates in producing doctors whose services are needed in the provinces, of which only 25 out of 81 have enough public doctors, Recto said.

Another program is run by the Department of Health (DOH), which had 1,142 scholars in various medical schools last year.

Under their contract, they shall "repay" their state-granted tuition and allowances by serving in rural areas after passing the board examinations.

"So more or less, the CHED and DOH tracks have a combined 3,000 beneficiaries. Dagdagan pa natin ito by including financially-challenged but academically excelling medicine students in private schools," he said.

Recto said in addition to Juan Flavier, who once served as Senate President Pro Tempore, "there are other names in the constellation of Filipino M.D. greats to choose from."

"Halimbawa, yung Eastern Visayas scholarship, pwedeng after Dr. Bobby de la Paz. Sa isang region, pwedeng ipangalan sa alalaala ni Dr. Fe del Mundo," Recto said.

De la Paz was a UP-PGH trained doctor who left a potentially lucrative big city practice for Samar, where he ran primary health care programs until he was assassinated inside his Catbalogan clinic in April 1982.

Del Mundo, on the other hand, was a Harvard-trained pediatrician whose career spanned 80 years.

"Kahit nga sa mga COVID-19 heroes, there are lots of names in the honor roll to choose from," Recto said.

He said naming scholarship programs "after people who distinguished themselves in a profession is done in many countries," Recto said.

"But unlike the Fulbright scholarship in the U.S and the Rhodes in England, our medical scholarship will not be named after benefactors, but after Filipino role models," Recto said.

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