The Philippines is holding its local and legilative elections this May 14. Which of the senatorial candidates exhibit the most libertarian leanings? Let's consider their answers to a question on the importation of low cost medicines (Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 6, 2007). I've divided their answers into three categories.
The categories cut randomly across partly lines. Unlike the recent runoffs in France, where the drama was resolved in favor of the more libertarian party, there is practically no ideological distinction between the contending elements in Philippine politics. Both favor good governance and unity; each claims itself as authentic. Product differentiation descends to the level of personalities, rather than philosophies. Perhaps, in the Philippine context, this is a good thing - when products are unstandardized, there is hardly a point to reading the label.
Of the three categories, of course I favor the first; in that category I have awarded the Man-With-No-Name award for the first two. Most of the other answers are blah-blah-blah-blah, blah-blah, blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah, blah-blah-blah, blah.
In the final category are answers I have included for your enjoyment.
Vicente Magsaysay, administration: I am for importation of low-cost medicines.
Antonio Trillanes, opposition: I support the importation of low-priced medicines.
Benigno Aquino, opposition: Im in favor of legislative initiatives seeking to amend the Intellectual Property Code to allow parallel importation of medicines as the first step toward broader access to quality health care.
Manuel Villar, administration: Under my watch as Senate President, the Senate approved the bill lowering the prices of medicines by amending our Patents Law to allow the importation and early development of patented medicines to greatly alleviate the health care needs of our people.
PRO BUT PROLIX:
Edgardo Angara, administration: Caring for ones health is a personal responsibility for most people but for me, it is my public duty. I have helped institutionalize a National Health Insurance Program thru PhilHealth, pushed for the creation of the National Institutes of Health to promote health R & D, and rallied behind the Generics Act. Ill push for the increase in the elderlys discount privileges for medicine to 34 percent by proposing amendments to the Senior Citizens Act. Ill support measures that will make available health support to an even bigger public even if it means importing quality low-priced medicines.Alan Cayetano, opposition: The Arroyo administration has neglected the health needs of the people. The cost of medicine is now beyond the reach of most Filipinos. I support the bills in Congress that call for importation of cheap drugs and for the institution of price control on certain drugs. Government purchases of drugs are also mired in corruption. This can be addressed by allowing patients to purchase medicine directly from private drugstores by issuing vouchers instead of the usual bidding that is practiced today.
Panfilo Lacson, opposition: Health is a priority in my advocacy as I have delineated in my HOPE legislative agenda. I, therefore, squarely support the policy allowing importation of low-priced medicines to enable Filipinos to have easier and fuller access to more medicines. Government, however, must ensure that unscrupulous parties that import low-priced but fake or substandard medicine are quickly punished.Luis Singson, administration: I am totally in favor of the parallel importation of low-priced medicines as it redounds to the benefit of the great majority of our countrymen. However, I also believe that we must resolutely pursue a comprehensive health program that includes allocation of substantial research and development funds for alternative herbal-based medicines or drugs made from indigenous materials that abound in the Philippines. We must develop our local pharmaceutical industry to lessen our dependence on imported medicines.
Juan Zubiri, administration: The high cost of medicine affects the poor more than the rich. Thus, it is only right and in the interest of the Filipinos for the government to find ways to lower medicine prices. This could be done by buying low-priced medicines abroad, fostering the local generic medicine industry, eliminating the monopoly of big medicine manufacturers, and placing prices of essential and life-saving medicine under government control. Not only manufactured medicine can be imported. Technologies in the manufacture of medicines with expired patents can also be adopted in the country by drug companies, so we can make cheaper medicines.
Francisco Pangilinan, independent: Because its economically beneficial for the country and people, importing low-priced medicines is a boon. If it poses a challenge to the local pharmaceutical industry, it should be taken as a chance for the industry to be more competitive. The benefit of having cheap but quality medicines for our people should prevail. These are thereasons the Senate passed the patents bill on the third reading before we ended session in February. The House of Representatives should give immediate attention to this bill when we resume session in July.
Anna Dominique Coseteng, opposition: While I am not against the importation of low-priced medicines, we must ensure that these are of the same high standard of safety and potency as medicines from established drug firms. One way to lower medicine prices is to require manufacturers to put in big enough text, the manufacturers suggested retail price on the package so that consumers will know how much a drug outlet is making, over the manufacturers cost of production.Mike Defensor, administration: One of the priority programs of the government is to bring quality but affordable medicine to the public. Notwithstanding, the implementation of the generics law, we have not been successful in reducing the price of medicines. We are implementing the Botika ng Bayan and the Botika ng Barangay in coordination with theDepartment of Health and the PITC. I agree to the importation of medicine if this will benefit the public.
Francis Escudero, opposition: I am in favor of such a move if indeed it will redound to the benefit of our people. Safety nets would have to be provided, however, in connection with quality control and intellectual property rights.
Loren Legarda, opposition: The manufacture of pharmaceutical products in the Philippines is a virtual monopoly. This makes the price of medicines costly in our country, even if manufactured locally. India produces a lot of medicines comparable to those manufactured here. If importing medicine will bring down the cost of health care in the Philippines, then importation should be undertaken. Unrestricted importation, however, does not sound good. Only medicines which are genuine and which have not yet gone beyond their storage life should be imported.
Tessie Oreta, administration: The cost of medicine in the country is one of the highest in Asia. The high cost becomes a major stumbling block to improving the well-being of Filipinos. Importing low-priced medicines may be one option to address the problem. However, we must ensure that standards of quality are met. In addition, we need to strengthen the capacities of regulatory bodies such as the Bureau of Customs and Bureau of Food and Drugs in order to prevent the entry of fake and substandard medicines.
Prospero Pichay, administration: There should be a balance between the importation of low-priced medicines and the need to let the local drug industry continue to be viable. We need to import low-priced medicines to help our countrymen cope with the high drug prices but we dont also want to kill the local drug industry. So there should be a balance.
Vicento Sotto, administration: Importing low-priced medicines is a major step in addressing the problem of access to affordable and quality medicines. However, we must ensure that standards of quality are always met and are constantly kept updated. In the case of low-cost imported medicines, quality must be a priority. We also need to explore and develop more alternative and traditional medicines, which may be more affordable to the majority of our people. In addition, we need to strengthen the capability of regulatory bodies such as the Bureau of Food and Drugs in order to prevent the entry of fake and below-standard medicines.
Sonia Roco, opposition: Are the multinationals providing reasonably priced medicines? Is the distribution of imported medicines democratized? Is the use of herbal and traditional medicine and methods sufficiently promoted and supported by the government? The 54-percent self-rated poor badly need cheap, unexpired medicines. Can they be bought at the Botika ng Bayan?
Ralph Recto, administration: Like the medicines we take, importation should be of the right dosage and kind. The challenge is not to import from India, but to copy India, which has been able to provide cheap medicines to its people by manufacturing essential drugs, to the extent of skirting patent limitations.
Cesar Montano, administration: Thats a good idea. But another option is to support locally made drugslike herbal medicines. In doing so, we are also providing jobs to our countrymen.
Richard Gomez, independent: All Filipinos should be given access to cheap medicines. Poverty is a major problem in our country. Thats why my priority is to raise the salaries of Filipinos.
Jamalul Kiram, administration: Expand the program and increase the budget allocation consistent with WHO standards and health services budget.
John Osmena, opposition: I am in favor of low-priced drugs.
Joker Arroyo, administration: No answer.