Anchor: Henry Omaga Diaz
Fifty-two children and twelve adult patients who came from the provinces with their guardians seek temporary shelter in the Center for Health Improvement and Life Development or CHILD Haus, one of the beneficiaries of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
It serves as a halfway house for parents and their children as they seek medical assistance to hospitals in Manila for diseases that cannot be attended to by provincial hospitals such as cancer and hydrocephalus. An estimated total of 140 people live in the charity foundation.
A patient at CHILD Haus
CHILD Haus is a joint partnership of 4 institutions: 3 Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCC) and one non-governmental organization (NGO). The Ricky Reyes Foundation is the principal sponsor although PCSO aids by paying for their electricity and water, as well as allowing them to use one part of the PCSO compound. In addition, PCSO is bound to grant P100,000 of monthly support to CHILD Haus as one of their selected beneficiaries.
Previously, residents found a bit of comfort with the food and amenities without charge. But, just after 7 years of operation, CHILD Haus received a notice of ejectment after PCSO terminated their lease last September. They were expected to leave the premises after 2 months until PTSI gave them an extension of six months awaiting their relocation by PCSO.
Dr. Rachel Rosario, Project Director of CHILD Haus says they were caught off guard; even the funds they rely on do not reach the center anymore. What will happen to the patients now?
In Krusada’s second episode, Henry Omaga Diaz immersed with the CHILD Haus residents. He met Erica Lei dela Cruz, a 12-year-old child with Medulloblastoma or Brain Tumor. She was abandoned by her mother while her father is imprisoned in Muntinlupa. Her aunt, Mirasol Norbete takes care of her and brings her to the Philippine General Hospital for treatment and consultations for her stage four cancer.
Diaz also focused on the lives of Myrna and May Delos Santos who left their family in Bicol to seek treatment in Manila. May is only 11 months old and is suffering from Hydrocephalus. Myrna and her husband, a suman vendor, did not know about May’s condition until 2 months after she was born. They brought her to a local center but were advised to go to Naga City for consultation for an unidentified illness.
At Naga, the parents were asked to bring their baby for an expensive CT scan. After learning about baby May’s illness, they were informed that they should travel to Manila because there is not enough facilities and specialists in the province to attend to May’s case.
Myrna delos Santos wells up
With the help of some sponsors, Myrna was able to send May to the National Children’s Hospital. Just a month ago, the doctors were able to drain the water out of May’s head, but it was left deformed after the operation.
Recently, a month after her operation, mother and child received great news from May’s neurosurgeon: there are no complications from the previous operation and they could now go home to Bicol. They only need to come back on January for a checkup.
At the event that CHILD Haus residents will have to evacuate the compound’s premises, Erica and Marisol will no longer have a place to stay while Myrna and baby May will not have a house to come back to next year.
Diaz investigated the truth behind PCSO’s termination notice of CHILD Haus’ lease and the condition of the residents during their extended stay without water, electricity and funds. Diaz continuously seeks to ensure a suitable shelter where the residents can be relocated.
PCSO’s mandate is clear. Supposedly, their power to collect funds from sweepstakes and lottery along with their obligation to appropriate and provide financial assistance to the needy are mutually inclusive.
According to Ferdinand Roxas, PCSO’s general manager, the notice was given only because it was deemed necessary. He said that the building is no longer safe to be lived in. Henceforth, it is condemned.
The former PCSO Chairman Manoling Morato opposes. He believes that the termination notice is questionable—the condemned building is not where CHILD Haus dwells. He claims that it was not even visited by any consultancy firm; there are no grounds for it to be declared as such.
The Philippine Tuberculosis Society, Incorporated (PTSI) owns the compound but is in contract with PCSO to use the premises for fifty years. However, even before the agreement expired, PCSO is already scheduled to transfer to the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) located at the Cultural Center of the Philippines or CCP Complex.
After TV Patrol featured CHILD Haus’ story on air, PCSO immediately sought for a new place for the residents. They considered the basement of East Avenue Medical Center as a relocation site. Diaz went to check the area and was appalled with what he saw. The place was too hot and it was beside a morgue. It was, indeed, particularly unsuitable for the patients and their guardians.
Another place they were considering is the AFP Medical Center—the former V. Luna General Hospital. Unlike the former, AFPMC is a good site; however, they could only stay for 3 months. Afterwards, they will have to leave and be homeless again.
PCSO Chairman Marjie Juico says that the President is also concerned for the children's welfare and yet the search for a proper and permanent dwelling continues.
In accordance with Republic Act 1169, The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office is the “principal government agency for raising and providing funds for health programs, medical assistance and services, and charities of national character.” PCSO holds sweepstakes and lottery games to fund their charitable projects. Thirty percent of the profits made are supposedly to be distributed among their beneficiaries. Hence, from the P4.1 billion earned from May to November this year, an estimate of P1.23 billion should go to charity.
From the controversial CHILD Haus issue, Krusada looked into the case of another charity institution which is also being supported by PCSO.
The Nutrition Foundation of the Philippines (NFP) has been a beneficiary of PCSO for 45 years.
According to Republic Act 4621 Sections 1 and 2, PCSO is authorized to hold special sweepstakes horse race draw per year for the benefit of NFP.
NFP uses funds from PCSO to combat malnutrition through education and feeding programs. One of their recipients is Brgy. Donya Imelda, an urban poor community in Quezon City. One hundred ten preschoolers get to eat for free — 4 times a week. They are entitled to receive P50,000 per month from PCSO but they have not been consistently given monetary support from the office. From 2005-2009, the amount given only totals to eleven months. This year, PCSO only gave them their share of the funds last July.
The teachers and nutritionists shell out from their own pockets just to be able to sustain the program especially because of children who go to school with empty stomachs when their parents cannot feed them.
Despite PCSO’s non-contribution, NFP’s Dr. Rodolfo Tolentino still wishes to expand their programs to meet the society’s demand for proper nutrition.
Henry Omaga Diaz with Myrna and Baby May
Despite the difficult challenges faced by CHILD Haus, there is still hope for the residents because of the overflowing support coming from citizens sincerely concerned of their welfare and the patients’ future. While they no longer hold on to PCSO’s promises, the children and their guardians remain strong. Indeed, they are learning to stand on their own.
Henry Omaga Diaz is determined to help them find a new place they can call home while being treated in Metro Manila. December 16, 2010