Caiaphas the wise

Caiaphas the wise

I never thought I would be saying that, but in relation to current events gripping our nation, I must say that the High Priest Caiaphas in Jesus’ time was wise. I revisited one of his most famous statements and it is food for thought. Responding to the panic of his associates concerning the growing popularity and combative stance of Jesus against religious hypocrites, Caiaphas said, “You know nothing at all. You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” (John 11:50).

Instead of “smart bombing” his enemies with criticisms or retribution, the President has habitually carpet bombed his perceived enemies and the rest be damned as collateral damage. In his war against drugs, his all-out war allegedly resulted in thousands of deaths, both legitimate and questionable or of an extrajudicial nature or EJK. Now on his last year, his critics are still waiting for “The One,” the big-time drug lord. Yes, the war on drugs has killed many Indians but no chiefs. When he placed ABS-CBN in his cross hairs, the President took down not just his perceived enemies, the Lopezes, he once again “nuked” his targets by staging a proxy war through Congress just like super powers and shut down ABS-CBN TV and Radio. Sadly, he did not believe in sacrificing one man or one family, he hit an estimated 5,000 innocent civilians who all lost their jobs.

In his recent moves the President is once again “bundling” his critics in the Senate, not realizing that his action is an attack on the institution tasked and given the power to conduct investigations. But that in itself pales to the President’s attack on Senator Richard Gordon, where the President drags in the Philippine National Red Cross. Instead of singling out Senator Gordon, the call of the President to audit government payments to the PRC directly challenges the integrity of the institution that has unwaveringly served the nation in times of war, regional conflicts and natural disasters.

The President has every right to respond to his critics, perhaps even verbally spar with them or, if necessary, confront them. But there is no wisdom in attacking institutions and ignoring the purpose they serve and what they symbolize. There is no wisdom or political sense in causing collateral damage because as it is often said, politics is about addition not subtraction. As despicable as Caiaphas may be to Christian believers, his strategic wisdom was still about protecting the establishment and the majority.

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First it was the controversial COA findings that the DOH was not properly utilizing and monitoring billions of pesos. Then the controversial DBM purchases of PPEs, face masks and face shields. Then came the cutback in the funding for the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine which is the frontliner among public health institutions in our battle against various diseases and viruses, and last but not the least, the confusing declaration that Metro Manila would be transitioning from ECQ to GCQ alongside granular hard lockdowns. But just as quick as that announcement came, the IATF withdrew it and shifted NCR from ECQ to GCQ to MECQ! Is this what qualifies as competent management of a health crisis? In yesterday’s front page of The Philippine STAR, nearly half of the news were appeals made by prominent political personalities imploring the President to crack the whip at his Cabinet members instead of blindly defending them. While I also encourage the President to do that, he might also want to check: Who is causing all the President’s headaches in the first place?

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Because of their highly publicized and often controversy laden case rates and coverage for medical expenses, many people assumed that PhilHealth already pays for the “consultation fees” that doctors charge for check-ups. These professional fees generally rate anywhere from P500 to P800 per visit and normally, patients that see a doctor will go twice and have to pay a total of at least P1,000. Those who can afford it think nothing of it, but for the elderly or unemployed who no longer work or indigent patients who count every peso they have, a thousand pesos will seriously impact their choices and quality of life.

I presumed that PhilHealth provides reimbursements for consultation fees but apparently they don’t. I even checked with an official in PhilHealth and it seems that payment of doctors’ fees was one of the things that fell into the cracks or missed by the authors of our Universal Health Care law. It’s bizarre that legislators and medical experts can formulate countless and complicated case rates and packages for public health insurance but overlook or forget the most basic transactional expense between patients and doctors. Worst of all, the current system passes the financial burden to every Filipino visiting a doctor. On occasion, this is one of the reasons why patients don’t return or go for follow-ups, especially out in the provinces and poor communities.

Another complaint or “sumbong” I received was how a doctor prescribed only a branded medicine that forced the patient to buy only half the medicines she needed. On her second trip to the drugstore she was advised by the pharmacist that she could buy branded generics that were half or a third the price. This is a good reminder to doctors, the DOH and pharmacists that the rule on prescriptions is that it should show both the branded and generic alternative for medicines. Healing and medicine should not be determined by capacity to pay. It should be based on compassion and respect for life, especially when it impacts a person’s quality of life.

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