DOH: Beware of those herbal medicines | Inquirer Opinion
As I See It

DOH: Beware of those herbal medicines

The defect in the proclamation of the winning senatorial candidates has been corrected, according to election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, who criticized the proclamation soon after the first six senators were proclaimed. Macalintal was one of the three guests at the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel last Monday. The two others were Dr. Honorata L. Catibog, director of the Department of Health’s National Center for Disease Prevention and Control, and Dr. Anthony P. Calibo, also of the same center and a specialist in the care of the newborn.

Macalintal repeated why he had said that the proclamation was not valid. He said that the certificates of proclamation did not state the number of votes that the candidates had obtained, nor did it say how they ranked in the tally.


Grace Poe, Loren Legarda, Chiz Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano, Nancy Binay, and Sonny Angara were proclaimed based on only 72 of the 304 certificates of canvass that the Commission on Elections, acting as the National Board of Canvassers, had tabulated, representing a mere 13 million of the nation’s 52 million registered voters.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1968 that an incomplete canvass “is illegal and cannot be the basis of a proclamation,” Macalintal said. The high court ordered the Comelec then “to count all the votes cast and consider all the returns,” he said.


Moreover, the Comelec does not have, under its own rules, the authority to make a partial proclamation because the rules provide for a “completion of canvass” as the basis of a proclamation, Macalintal pointed out. “[Not] including the votes in the proclamation is disrespectful of the returns and in effect disenfranchises the voters,” he said.

The Comelec has since proclaimed three more winning candidates and then the last three, also without stating the votes each had garnered and their rankings in the tally.

Macalintal was asked: “Aren’t you nitpicking and being too technical? The whole nation has already accepted the winners, there are no preproclamation protests against them, and even if the untallied votes were counted for those behind, they would not be able to overtake the votes tallied for the winners. Are you doing this because your client, Sen. Gringo Honasan, is No. 12, with former Sen. Richard Gordon close behind?”

“Not at all,” Macalintal replied. “I’m doing this because it sets a bad precedent. What would happen if the local boards of canvassers, following the Comelec’s example, proclaimed winners based on their discretion on who are the winning candidates? What would be the basis of a losing candidate filing an election protest? He or she would not know the vote difference between him/her and the proclaimed candidate.”

But Senator Honasan, Macalintal’s client, has already been proclaimed, so “the defect has been corrected,” the election lawyer said. Presumably, subsequent certificates of proclamation already contained the number of votes obtained by the proclaimed candidates, as well as their rankings, in the tally.

* * *

Doctors Catibog and Calibo spoke on what the DOH is doing to address the health needs of people in the provinces.


Catibog said health teams have been formed in poor communities. The teams are headed by a licensed midwife, and composed of health personnel from the municipal and barangay councils. They not only treat the sick but also teach the communities sanitation and health. They even teach the people how to make toilets and toilet bowls, with the DOH providing the construction materials.

According to Catibog, the DOH also sets the standards in the hiring of medical personnel but that the local governments do the hiring themselves. The DOH pays part of the bills, she said.

The talk turned to alternative medicine. Herbal drugs have become a multibillion-peso industry and the people not only lose hard-earned money on quack, ineffective herbals but run the risk of ingesting toxic substances lurking in them. While some herbs do contain medicinal properties, we do not yet know what other substances they contain, some of which may be harmful. One example is the mahogany seed, which was widely touted as lowering high blood pressure. So many people took them. It turned out that the mahogany seed is toxic, and a number of people that ingested them died.

We do not know if some of the herbals being marketed by the herbal companies contain the same dangerous properties. What is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doing about it?

The FDA is working as fast as it can to test these herbals, but it cannot keep up with the number of herbals that come up every month, Doctors Catibog and Calibo replied.

Shouldn’t these drugs be prohibited from being marketed until the FDA has completed its tests on them?

Unfortunately, the herbals are classified as food supplements and not medicines, so the manufacturers can claim that they are beyond the authority of the FDA.

The labels on the herbals say: “No therapeutic claims.” But how many Filipinos know what that means? And then the ads, commercials, and handbills claim that they can cure so many deadly diseases—cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease; name the disease, the herbals have a cure for it. Isn’t that false advertising?

Calibo said the previous health secretary, Dr. Esperanza Cabral, had already decreed that the label be changed into Filipino and should say, “Hindi ito gamot” (This is not a medicine). However, the herbal companies went to the Supreme Court to stop the order, The case is still pending in the high court.

While the Supreme Court is taking its sweet time in deciding on the matter, millions of Filipinos are being cheated by the false advertising of herbal companies.

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TAGS: 2013 Elections, 2013 midterm elections, Alan Peter Cayetano, Chiz Escudero, Department of Health, Grace Poe, Herbal Medicines, kapihan sa manila, Loren Legarda, Nancy Binay, Romulo Macalintal, Sonny Angara
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