Senate ratifies ‘Doktor para sa Bayan Act’

Published October 15, 2020, 6:45 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Senate ratified Thursday the final copy of the bill which would grant full medical scholarships to qualified and deserving Filipino students.

During their afternoon plenary session, Sen. Joel Villanueva reported to his colleagues that the bicameral conference committee has reconciled and consolidated the Senate and House bills on the proposed “Doktor para sa Bayan Act.”

Villanueva, chairman of the Senate Committee on Higher, Technical, and Vocational Education and head of the Senate panel in the bicam, said the members of the House of Representatives adopted most of the Senate proposals.

The bill, if signed into law, would establish Medical Scholarship and Return Service Program which would prioritize for applicants from municipalities without government physicians.

This is “to achieve the goal of assigning of at least one doctor for every municipality in the country,” said Villanueva, who pointed out the shortage of doctors serving in the Philippines as highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposed scholarship covers free tuition and other school fees, including allowances and fees for internship, medical board review, and licensure examination.

Under the program, the scholars shall finish the Doctor of Medicine Program within a prescribed time frame and afterwards render a return of service, which would be equivalent to the number of years he or she has availed of the scholarship.

Doctors who refuse to comply with the mandatory return service shall pay back the full cost of their scholarship expenses. 

The bill also proposes to require the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to streamline the requirements for the application for authority to offer Doctor of Medicine Program. It also seeks to strengthen the partnership between State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) and government hospitals so that there is at least one State-operated medical school per region in five years.

Aside from the CHED and SUCs, the Department of Health (DoH), partner private higher education institutions, and local government units shall also have a role in implementing the program.

A transitory provision in the bill states that all scholars under the existing medical scholarship programs of DoH and CHED shall automatically be eligible to avail the benefits under the measure.