Tempest in the PMA

Dr. Calimag formally assumes presidency; disregards resolutions made by Dr. Olarte

BY MYLENE C. ORILLO

DR. MARIA MINERVA CALIMAG formally assumed her post as the new president of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) effective June 1, 2014 amid the former president’s protest.

In an interview with Vital Signs, Dr. Calimag said that Atty. Leo Olarte, MD stormed the PMA compound last June 2, planning to hold a press conference and “people power”, but the latter was banned from entering by the guards at the gate.

According to Dr. Calimag, the PMA’s duly appointed National Comelec chaired by Dr. Joel Macalino continues to exist and its powers have not been revoked nor superseded by any authorized PMA officer or body.

“Dr. Olarte created an ad hoc committee. I told him, you cannot convene an ad hoc committee because you’re an interested party. Then he said, ‘Oh you are the winner already. I’m no longer interested. I’m going to private practice of law’. But a few days after, we were surprised when he called for a special meeting and impeached the Comelec and he has already four names to replace the Comelec,” said Dr. Calimag.

She clarified that Dr. Olarte and his group have no authority to create and/or appoint new members of the National Comelec or the Electoral Tribunal since the same was not approved and ratified by the PMA General Assembly held on May 23, 2014 during the PMA’s Annual Convention in Vigan, Ilocos Sur.

In that convention, Dr. Calimag was inducted as PMA president for 2014-2015 and Dr. Olarte even turned over the position to her. The new president stressed that the alleged “impeachment” of Dr. Macalino and the electoral body’s members is not true, is unauthorized, and has no force and effect since there was no valid complaint nor was there any ground for it. She added that there was even no notice or hearing for the ‘impeachment’ complaint.

“First, the election, has been finished. If you replace the Comelec, you’ll replace the composition of the electoral tribunal, which is supposed to hear his ‘complaints’. Kung s’ya ang complainant tapos s’ya na rin ang nag-appoint ng judge (If he’s the complainant and he appoints the judge), that’s self-serving. I won’t expect to get a fair trial,” said Dr. Calimag.

Tempest in the PMA - 1

First order of the day

In a memorandum dated June 1 issued by the newly installed PMA head, she called on her members to ignore the alleged resolution forming a new Comelec and Electoral Tribunal of the PMA.

“Even the said alleged ‘resolution’ of Dr. Olarte, if ever it exists, cannot be the basis of annulling our proclamation as the same cannot be considered effective since there are still remedies available to any aggrieved parties like the filing of a motion for reconsideration and/or appeal. During the pendency of this motion or appeal, any such resolution is NOT YET effective,” the memorandum said.

Dr. Calimag further directed all PMA personnel and staff to report to and/or coordinate directly coordinate any and all affairs of the PMA effective immediately. No records and/or papers or documents of the PMA shall be released without prior approval of the new president.

“If he really loves PMA, he will abide by the decision of the people. Even for the sake of delicadeza (propriety), he should not interfere in the functions of the National Comelec or the Electoral Tribunal considering that he is a person who has personal interest over the issues raised therein,” said Dr. Calimag.

United for change

A few weeks before the induction ceremony, eight top medical leaders rallied behind Dr. Calimag amid the impeachment of PMA’s Comelec.

In a press conference, the medical leaders led by the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) president-elect, Dr. Anthony Leachon signed a manifesto of support for Dr. Calimag and its new board expressing solidarity, service above gain, and integrity.

“This happened for the first-time in the history of the PMA,” said Dr. Leachon. “Our purpose should be bigger than ourselves. The PMA leadership is in shambles right now and everybody is affected. So we banded together as co-equals to re-establish the nobility of the profession.”

In the manifesto of support, the Filipino medical community enumerated its various initiatives and advocacies directly affecting patient health through effective legislation and health care policy making such as the Sin Tax Law, the Freedom of Information Bill, and introduction of other policies to curb the epidemic of non-communicable diseases.

“These positive actions underscore one fact: that when the medical community employs cooperative diplomacy and partners with key stakeholders and leaders of healthcare in the country, our patients will benefit,” the statement said.

Rising above politics

Meanwhile, Dr. Calimag urged the doctors to elevate the status of the PMA to a level of professionalism beyond politics through her “Kapit-Bisig Para Sa Pagbabago, sa PMA at sa BAYAN!” (Joint arms for reforms in the PMA and the nation) speech.

“Politics muddle all our issues in the PMA…we should all rise above politics and discuss the things that really matter to us as physicians,” said Dr. Calimag who is the duly elected 94th PMA president and seventh female to head the prestigious organization of physicians.

Dr. Calimag admitted that she found herself embattled in asserting her rightful place as PMA President.

“It is inevitable that I find myself in this position as I am now protecting the Philippine Medical Association as an enduring institution of dedicated physicians for the past 111 years. Those who voted in the last PMA elections voted for change in the PMA.”

She challenged doctors to unite and embrace cooperative diplomacy in dealing with government and regulatory agencies and with all other stakeholders including their fellow physicians.

“If we shut all doors and stop communicating then we will not be able to air our sides and we will lose the chance for positive change to take place. It is now time to take positive action. I now call on our fellow physicians for PMA to join hand-in-hand in nation-building.”

Dr. Leachon, on the other hand, felt that the medical profession is under siege due to the perception created by an ad that doctors are not responsible citizens because they’re non-compliant to the BIR. This was even highlighted by Dr. Olarte’s cases of tax-evasion and forgery. Dr. Olarte is currently facing tax evasion raps with the Bureau of Internal Revenue and fraud, ethics case filed with the Professional Regulation Commission.

“That started the whole thing. The medical societies started reflecting on the issues and we felt that the inner core should go back to the values, our calling. So we reflected. Why don’t we comply first before we complain and become responsible citizens rather than be defiant of the whole thing?” he said.

Century-old organization

Built upon the age-old ideals of their predecessors in 1903, the PMA is the accredited professional organization of physicians with more than 70,000 listed members and about 27,000 active members.

It has 118 component societies spread across the country, with eight specialty divisions, and numerous sub-specialty societies.

“The public relies on the PMA to minimize actual and perceived conflicts of interest and ensure that all its interactions meet high ethical standards. In all of these interactions, the PMA must be committed to acting with integrity and transparency,” said Dr. Calimag.

VitalSigns Issue 64 Vol. 3, June 1-30, 2014