By Mario Casayuran
Neophyte Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go paid a sentimental visit to the country’s very first Malasakit Center established at Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) in Cebu City last Friday to celebrate Christmas with children and senior citizen patients admitted in the hospital.
VSMMC was where the Malasakit Center initiative first took off with its launching last February 12, 2018. Today, hundreds of thousands of patients have already benefitted from the program, which is a convergence initiative of President Duterte that was proposed by Go himself when he was still Special Assistant to the President.
Go is the principal sponsor of the Malasakit Law. It is his first bill enacted into law in the current 18th Congress.
The senator from Davao said he was elated to see how much impact the Malasakit Center has made in just over a year of operation in the island province. The senator brought presents to the children, while wishing them good health.
Go also expressed greetings on behalf of the President and vowed that the government will continue prioritizing the welfare of children, senior citizens and the vulnerable sectors of society.
He also interacted with the senior citizen patients, who he thanked for their continued trust and support for the Duterte administration.
He said that one of the things he learned from the President was to always give back to those who have been supportive by being dedicated in continuously serving them and uplifting their lives.
The senator also gave both audiences an overview of how the Malasakit Center program has evolved–from its conception until the legislative measure seeking to institutionalize it was signed into law.
Go explained that before the Malasakit Center was initiated, patients or their representatives often spend much time, effort and money to queue up in concerned government offices, such as the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), just so they can avail of medical assistance from these offices as compared to the present set-up where patients can avail of medical and financial assistance through the one-stop shop Malasakit Center.
In an ambush interview, Go told members of the media that since Malasakit Center was already passed into law, the 73 DOH-run hospitals in the country would be mandated to have them. Furthermore, criteria and guidelines are now set for local government units that wish to also establish their own Malasakit Centers.
He further added that there is no need to put any funding specific to the Malasakit Center since the four government agencies, DOH, DSWD, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and PhilHealth, are already present in the center with their own funded medical assistance programs that are made available to patients who will request for assistance from government.
The senator also reminded Filipinos not to treat him differently just because of his position. He reiterated his commitment to continue going around the country to visit communities, listen to their concerns, and find ways to address their daily struggles.
“‘Wag niyo akong tawaging senador. Di ko naman inasahan na maging senador ako,” he said. He added that he only wants to leave happiness and smiles to the people most especially this holiday season. (Don’t call me senator. I didn’t expect that I would become a senator.)
Telling the patients that ‘’we only live once,’’ Go vowed to make the most out of his life by serving the Filipino people.