‘Embo’ as Solomon’s baby | Inquirer Opinion
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‘Embo’ as Solomon’s baby


As we rang in the new year, 200,000 residents in 10 enlisted men’s barrios or “Embo” barangays lost their health benefits under Makati City’s yellow card health-care program, following the Supreme Court decision declaring the barangays as part of Taguig City and no longer of Makati. The program provided qualified Makati residents with free medicines as well as free hospitalization at the Ospital ng Makati (OsMak). Specialized medical and diagnostic services at partner facilities like the Makati Life Medical Center and the Makati Medical Center may also be availed of. Not only did Embo residents lose all these benefits, but their health centers and lying-in clinics in Taguig City were also shut down since their license to operate had already expired. A few months ago, Taguig City rejected Makati’s proposal to establish a credit line to ensure that Embo residents would continue to have access to the latter’s health centers and OsMak.

This is not the first time that the ongoing dispute between the two cities has led to the disruption of service to residents. A publicity war ensued during the first day of school a few months ago, with local government officials showing up unannounced to hand out free school supplies—with the requisite photo-op, of course. This time, however, with access to health care at risk, the situation is no longer merely disruptive, but potentially fatal. Continuity of health care is crucial. As much as possible, we should avoid gaps in the delivery of care.

The two cities ideally should have developed a transition plan for their health services instead of letting licenses expire and having barangays go without a functioning health center. Even if Taguig had offered its own existing health centers and programs, it would still take time and effort for Embo residents to show the needed documents and sign up. We also assume that these centers are much farther than the residents’ existing ones. The extent and ease of Makati’s health-care program is also unparalleled in our local public health system and not a standard package for other cities like Taguig.


So how much harm can a few days without health care do? Lying-in clinics are vital to our local public health system. They allow for access to professional support in the community as majority of expectant mothers are not able to travel long distances to a hospital. A pregnant woman who loses access to a nearby lying-in clinic risks ending up giving birth at home without adequate support. Birthing at home increases the risk not just for complications to both mother and child, but may also lead to infant and maternal death.

Cutting off free access to medication, even if just for a few days, can also lead to health complications. Residents who require maintenance medication such as those with heart problems, diabetes, and asthma risk provoking a health crisis if their medicines are not taken continuously. Psychiatric medications need to be taken regularly lest we risk a sudden increase in depression and suicidal tendencies if these medications are suddenly stopped. My own uncle, a longtime Makati resident, suddenly found himself scrambling to figure out his health options in the midst of a serious health crisis as the reliable OsMak—relocated to Taguig several years ago when the city was still considered part of Makati—was now out of reach.

The dispute between Taguig and Makati reminds me of the biblical story of the judgment of King Solomon. As the story goes, two women claimed being the mother of a baby. To resolve this, King Solomon proposed that the baby be split in half. One woman agreed while the other begged for the baby to be given to her rival to ensure the baby’s survival. King Solomon then judged that the second woman was the true mother since she cared about the baby’s well-being.

If only the Supreme Court had considered the cities’ intentions with the Embo barangays in its 2021 decision that awarded them to Taguig. Judging by how Makati and Taguig are behaving themselves, the Embo residents are the real losers in this case. The residents did not get a voice in this decision and have become displaced without even moving a single step. There are multiple generations of families who’ve always identified as Makati citizens, whose schools and health care are now held hostage to the ongoing issues between the two cities. Even as both cities profess that they care about the residents, their actions show that they would allow residents to suffer just to prove their point. If they truly care as they say they do, they should put their egos aside and ensure the continuity of services. Everyone’s claiming to be the mother, but no one is willing to save the baby.


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TAGS: Makati-Taguig land dispute, Safe Space

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