Where did money for medical scholars go?

Mujiv Hataman

A HOUSE leader has demanded the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) explain why it did not spend a single centavo from the P250-million Student Financial Assistance Program and Subsidy for Tuition Fees of Medical Students in state universities and colleges.

House Deputy Speaker and Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman called for the explanation as he sought more doctors in the newly established Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

“The municipalities, cities and provinces that make up BARMM are some of the poorest areas in our country today. And because of this, we also have some of the lowest doctor-to-patient ratios. Kaya mahirap lunukin ang katotohanan na may pondo para pag-aralin ang mga gustong mag-doktor pero walang naging iskolar noong 2018,” said Hataman.

“BARMM could use more Moro doctors. Sa lalawigan ko lang, marami ang gustong maging doktor pero hindi kaya dahil mataas ang matrikula at gastos sa pag-aaral ng medisina. I call on CHED to be proactive in seeking medical scholars who will stay in the barrios once they become doctors,” Hataman, a former governor of the now defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

In 2011, the then ARMM average of doctor-to-patient ratio was 1:45,224, with Basilan having a 1:58,664 rate, according to figures from the Mindanao Development Authority and the Department of Health. Recent data shows that the ARMM average is now at 1:45,197, with Basilan having at least seven doctors serving a population of 346,579. The national average is at 1:33,000.

“Add these low figures to the fact that six out of 10 Filipinos die without seeing a doctor and we can surmise the sorry state of our healthcare system not only in ARMM, but in other poor areas in the country as well. This has to change and it has to change now,” Hataman said.

“And CHED has a huge part to play in increasing the number of doctors in BARMM. It should study why there are no medical scholars in 2018 when I know for a fact that many young Moros want to be doctors. Kailangan paigtingin ang information drive, o kaya ang CHED na mismo ang lumapit sa mga estudyante,” said Hataman.

The Commission on Audit (COA) has recently hit CHED for the underutilization of its budget on vital educational projects that included the subsidy for medical students. In 2018, of the P250 million allotment for the program, only P55.87 million was obligated, but no actual disbursement was made.

According to a COA report, CHED explained that students did not pursue the subsidy under the program and opted for the DOH’s more comprehensive scholarship instead that included lab fees, miscellaneous and other allowances.

“If this is true, then CHED should adapt to the changes and be more responsive to the needs of students. Mahal ang pagdo-doktor. Mahal na ang matrikula pati ang ibang babayaran ay napakamahal din. Kung hindi sapat ang matrikula lang, pwede namang baguhin,” Hataman explained.

“Kung kailangan ng legislative action, then tell us. Kung kailangan ng executive intervention, then go through the proper channel. Hindi yung nasasayang ang pondo. Marami sanang natulungan ang P250 milyon noong 2018, kasama na ang BARMM,” Hataman added.