THINK ON THESE by Henrylito D. Tacio

The midterm poll is coming!  It is very interesting this year since the field for the Senate is very open.  Unlike before when you already know two parties are contesting again each other. 

But such is not the case now.  There are only “senatoriables” in the opposition side.  In the administration side, there are more than 12 contenders.  And of course, there are those who run independently.

Which means there are those who will vote some from the administration candidates, those from the opposition and others from the independents to complete the set of 12 senators.  Of course, there are those who may select a few of them only, perhaps 3 or 6 candidates.

For me, I will vote for only four candidates.  One of them is Dr. Willie T. Ong, the only doctor running for the Senate.  “There is no doctor pushing for things at the committee on health,” he told media after filing his certificate on candidacy at the Commission on Elections.

As a private physician, he has been helping the poor Filipinos but he thinks he can help more if he is already in the Senate.  He wants to file health laws that will benefit those less privileged in life.  He would also like to straighten the health care system of the country.  After all, he once served as a consultant of the Department of Health for four years.

The last time we had a doctor in the senate was when Juan Flavier became a senator.  He was the health secretary before he ran.  He won despite the fact the Catholic Church was against him (because of his stand on family planning and the use of condom). 

Despite the fact that health is one of the important issues in this year’s election (the Dengvaxia fiasco comes to mind), Dr. Ong is not very popular among those running.  In fact, only very few Filipinos known him well.

Kay Rivera in his column called Dr. Ong as an “odd candidate” and described him as “social media personality.”  Dr. Ong, he wrote, “represents a growing dissatisfaction, a heightened political awareness, on the part of the public which sees the government as failing to protect their own interests.”

And people may vote for Dr. Ong for that.  “The loss of trusts in incumbent and prospective senators – a motley crew of apologists, plagiarists, and perpetrators of varying degrees of crime – makes Dr. Ong and those like him an attractive alternative.”

Dr. Ong is one of the very few candidates who is very serious in what he will be doing once he is elected.  In one of the interviews, he told a newspaper columnist, “As a doctor catering to poor patients, I know which medicines are still overpriced and beyond the financial capability of indigents.”

On GMA News’ “Debate 2019,” he said that if elected, he plans to improve the quality of healthcare in the country, particularly its public hospitals.  To do so, he needs at least 30 million for it.  With more public hospitals, he said, “we can save lives.”

Dr. Ong draws inspiration from Malaysia’s strong leader, Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, who practiced medicine before joining the Malaysian parliament.  He also idolizes Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a Ramon Magsaysay recipient before she got the Nobel Peace Prize.

In his Facebook account, Dr. Ong bared on why he is running for the Senate.  “Many were happy and a few dismayed when I decided,” he said.  But against all odds, he is running with no monetary donations for his campaign.  “I want to keep it clean to have a chance to change the system,” he disclosed.

It’s a tall order but he is determined. “Even as a boy, I have always felt that I had a mission to fulfill,” he said. “When my family wanted me to take up a business course,” he disobeyed them because “I wanted to be a doctor to help others.”

Dr. Ong has a soft spot for poor people. “When others focused on treating rich clients, I focused all my efforts in treating poor patients and going into the slum areas,” he admitted.  “Why?  Because the Bible says that where the poor, there also you shall find God.”

For 25 years now, he and his physician wife, Liza, have devoted their time in giving free advice and services for these poor Filipinos.  “When some are content to relax and enjoy life, I stick my neck out in politics, get bashed along the way, just for the chance to help more people,” he said.

Surprisingly, Dr. Ong comes from a family with no one ever involved in politics. Hence, he cannot be called as a member of a dynasty or following someone’s footsteps.  “For me, politics will not be a business,” he pointed out.  “Politics will be a greater advocacy for the poor.”

During the campaign, when the time-worn path to victory is to create drama and controversy, he focuses on a clean campaign.  “No huge promises,” he said, “just slow and steady helping of our people.  And when politicians are busy mapping and courting the voters, I keep on thinking and feeling bad for the non-voters, because they may not be getting any help as a result.”

There are those who believe that only corrupts join politics.  Sooner or later, a clean person who become a government official may be eaten by the system.  He wants to prove that otherwise.  “People say you have to be corrupt to join politics,” he said. “That a clean person cannot survive.  I want to test that belief.”

Again, when he was still a boy, he knew that he will be helping others.  “Today, more than ever, it is very clear in my mind,” he stressed.  “My mission is to care for the health of 106 million Filipinos.  Because health is wealth.  And we need both health and wealth in our country.

That’s Dr. Ong speaking heartily.  “No drama, no epal, no breast-beating,” he declared.  “Just plain old helping the poor. I have no pretensions or ego in politics.  My less travelled path will possibly lead to defeat.  But, in the end, I may yet gain another ‘victory.’ In peace, contentment, and doing the right thing.  And who knows, maybe even in the hearts of a few.”

Now, you know why I will vote for Dr. Willie T. Ong. No. 51!