[IRL] IN THE PINK OF HEALTH
By Menchu Aquino Sarmiento
Because health is wealth, it is the linchpin of V.P. Leni Robredo’s just released Kalayaan sa COVID plan. True, even before the pandemic, she has walked the talk with her many Angat Buhay civil society partnerships. Enabling her to do these on a national scale, by wisely using government resources, instead of losing these to corruption and wasteful mismanagement, will be truly transformative for the Philippines. That is real change for the better. The 2019 Universal Health Care Act might finally be realized.
Bawal magkasakit. The healthcare worker is the enforcer, whether through testing, vaccination and addressing primary care by deploying a nurse in every barangay. E-consults and other blessings of modern technology would still be used as necessary. Paying HCWs fairly dignifies their essential work. Building and staffing more health centers and field hospitals is part of the plan. If they had just living wages that factored in their professional expertise and risks, most HCWs would rather stay with their families or closer to home, than join the exodus abroad.
VPL’s health advocacy is supported by the recognition that every working Filipino has the right to decent livelihood and a living wage, or fair payment for their products and services. She especially considers the farmers and the fisher folk, who are ironically so impoverished by debt and government neglect, that they cannot even adequately feed their own families. She warns us not to be complacent as COVID cases continue to fall. Other pandemics or natural calamities such as typhoons, floods, drought and earthquakes, all exacerbated by global climate change, are in our forseeable future: the Philippines is among the most disaster-prone countries after all.
Education is the third leg of the tripod supporting Kalayaan sa Covid’s very practical, clear-eyed plans. This means reopening schools in low-Covid risk areas. In high risk areas, both students and teachers would be provided with gadgets and internet support. Hopefully, WiFi costs will also go down overall, as the market broadens and more Filipinos enter the digital age.
Like a good mother, VPL is nurturing yet practical. Her plans are doable. She doesn’t promise a fairy tale about hidden gold that after 80 years of being hoarded by a family of thieves, will be distributed to the Filipinos from whom it was stolen in the first place. Neither are the Kalayaan sa Covid plans focused on humongous, environmentally harmful infrastructure projects, contracted through high interest loans with our natural resources as collateral, and employing Chinese laborers. VPL puts Filipinos first. She does not have dirty money to buy into political power, but ordinary, decent, honest, hard-working Filipinos are the human capital of this nation. They just need a good leader to show them the way.
Menchu Aquino Sarmiento is an award-winning writer and a social concerns advocate. IRL (In Real Life) are short verbal pagmumuni-muni, the essay equivalent of fast fiction--but in real life. She really wants more Filipinos to care, and to do something legal and non-violent about it, preferably together, so that we act more like a civilized country, a mature democracy.