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Marcos let Ninoy have his surgery abroad

It’s pure terror, and you’d have no idea of the horror unless you’ve experienced it: You gulp for air, and there’s nothing there.

A 65-year-old grandmother has gone through such horror, and lives minute-to-minute with the fear that it could happen again. The two titanium plates implanted in former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo neck have been displaced, causing her to choke at a wrong movement of her neck. A renowned doctor has warned that her condition can even cause her sudden death. She had three operations here, one lasting eight hours, another 14 hours. Yet her condition has worsened.

Yet the Aquino administration callously ignores her urgent need for expert, specialized treatment abroad, with its spokesmen inanely, cruelly remarking they will get first other doctors’ diagnosis—which no ethical physician will do. One cartoonist even delights in making fun of her condition.

Why isn’t she allowed to leave? Because of so flimsy and obviously fabricated allegations not even the most-rabid pro-Aquino opinion writers dare argue these charges. How have we come to this? How can we even call ours a Christian nation?

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However corrupt he allegedly was, Ferdinand Marcos had the decency to value a human life above politics. At the height of his power, Marcos assented to Ninoy Aquino’s request to go to the United States for his heart surgery.

The claim that US President Jimmy Carter arm-twisted Marcos to allow Ninoy to leave is rubbish. In his February 1981 speech in an anti-Marcos assembly in Los Angeles, Ninoy narrated that after complaining of chest pains weeks before, he was brought to the Philippine Heart Center in the evening of May 5, 1980, diagnosed the next day as requiring immediate heart surgery, and left for the US May 8. The US president managed to intervene in Philippine affairs in a span of two days?

Ninoy’s account, lifted from his speech’s transcript: “No, if I cannot be operated in America, then bring me back to my cell, I told them (on May 6). The deputy minister of defense asked me: ‘Are you willing to write a letter to Marcos requesting to be brought to America?’  I said yes.  And so, I wrote my letter Wednesday (May 7) to Mr. Marcos and made two covenants: that if I leave, I shall return, and two, that while in America, I should not speak out against his regime.

The next morning, May 8, the beautiful one (Imelda Marcos) ascended into my (hospital) suite. She talked to me… she was very nice. And then, all of a sudden, after one hour, she said, Would you like to go to America? Aba’y kako, sure. Sure! Oo, oo.  Palayasin na niyo ’ko, papuntahin niyo ako sa America.  Sabi niya, there’s a plane leaving at 6 o’ clock. You can be in that plane. And so she ordered the foreign office to issue us passports. They called up the American embassy to get us the visas. At 2:30 in the afternoon, they brought me to my house…. They gave me 30 minutes to pack and take a shower. Then they brought me to the airport, put me in a 747, and out of the Philippines.”

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Out of the country’s 100,000 physicians, it has been solely this Leo Olarte—a traumatic orthopedic doctor and lawyer—who has been publicly ranting since 2011 against Arroyo’s need for medical help abroad, claiming that her illness is a simple one easily cured here. Because he identifies himself as the Philippine Medical Association’s “governor,” he misleads everyone that his views are that of the association, and therefore of the medical profession.

But Olarte is just one of PMA’s 21 officers and governors, and he has never consulted the association for his anti-Arroyo statements. The PMA—or any ethical doctor—will never publicly comment on Arroyo’s case, for that matter on anyone’s medical condition, unless ordered by a court and only after a formal examination by a committee of specialists. Publicly criticizing a doctor’s diagnosis of his patient as Olarte has been doing is grossly unethical as it impugns the attending physician’s competence.

Olarte’s unprofessional attitude becomes downright inane when he makes conclusions about Arroyo’s medical condition when he hadn’t even read her medical records, nor physically examined her, as a physician is required to before venturing a diagnosis.  Also, Arroyo’s ailment, which is constricting her spinal cord, is not Olarte’s expertise, which is to fix bones broken in some accident. Yet he has the gall to claim that correcting the displaced titanium plate in Arroyo’s cervical vertebrae is a “simple operation” taking a few hours.

Olarte just doesn’t realize that the Hippocratic oath’s essence, which distinguishes the medical profession from others, is its prime directive for physicians to put the health and life of a human being above everything else—beyond politics, and definitely beyond “medical tourism.”

Believe it or not, that is what Olarte says is his reason for objecting to Arroyo’s medical treatment abroad—the country’s medical tourism. “Arroyo’s seeking medical help abroad will destroy our promotion of medical tourism,” he has been saying since 2011. A patient’s right to choose his physician is a pillar of medical ethics and a corollary to the universal right to life. But Olarte wants Arroyo to choose only his list of orthopedic doctors here.

The real reason for Olarte’s anti-Arroyo odium could be something else.  Google “Olarte” with “Risa Hontiveros,” the leftist Akbayan’s Arroyo-hater, desperate senatorial wannabe who recruited the publicity-seeking doctor to rant against the former president. You’ll find a sickening photo of Olarte posing with Hontiveros, both carrying Akbayan-made placards, and apparently hoping that photo-ops would get them name-recall in some elections.