A few nights ago, I came across the second episode of GMA Network’s Philippine Agenda. It was a tragic and morbid episode that tackled the public health services situation in the country. Tragic, obviously because the whole health sector situation is tragic in the first place, and morbid because two of the program’s subjects, after being shown struggling with their conditions, eventually die towards the end of the show. They couldn’t afford check-ups, nor the medicines, nor the other hospital fees. [Part of the documentary can be watched here].
When asked why public hospitals, which should ideally render much of its services for free, extract fees from things as minute as a patient’s use of a hospital bed, a government doctor said, “The government’s not giving us enough. We are being told to generate our own income.” What an all too familiar line, even in the University of the Philippines. From tuition increases in UP to fee increases in government hospitals, these have to be seen as part of a real and ongoing state policy of slowly abandoning social services. These has to be seen as a real and ongoing state policy of following policy impositions from foreign financial institutions. They are not unrelated situations.
Many even among my fellow students simply and more importantly, conveniently just tow the government and the conservatives’ lines–that there is not enough money, that there is nothing we can do about it but extract the income from the people themselves. But these shouldn’t be solved by simply giving up and surrendering to this constructed or manufactured, and more importantly inflicted, ‘reality’. It shouldn’t be solved by absolving the government of its duties by allowing public hospitals, public schools and state universities to generate their own income through tuition increases and other fee increases. Still, campaigns for greater state subsidy and other such policy shifts for social services must be intensified.
Yes, it’s election time once more, and though this is one of the people’s ways of manifesting their aspirations, it’s not the only democratic and participative way of demanding and implementing changes. And with such a huge clout of doubt in the integrity of such a “democratic process,” we can’t simply pin our hopes just on this.