By Macon Araneta | FilAm Star Correspondent
Former President and now Pampanga Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has filed a bill seeking to strengthen and protect the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC), her home for four years when she was detained for plunder.
Now house deputy speaker, Arroyo, who walked out of detention at VMMC in July after the dismissal of her plunder case, has filed House Bill No. 1240 to give the hospital greater autonomy and to modernize its facilities.
She seeks to protect the hospital following reports that the Ayala Group is eyeing the 55-hectare property as the site of the North Integrated Transport System Terminal.
Under her measure, Arroyo proposed that VMMC, a hospital catering to the needs of military veterans and retirees, be protected from sale or disposition, and to give it its own juridical personality for greater flexibility and independence in its operations.
“Recognizing the invaluable sacrifices and services of our veterans and military retirees, it is only imperative that a medical facility dedicated to serve their medical needs as well as their dependents must be provided stability, viability and ample resources to ensure that they receive quality medical and health services,” Arroyo said.
Until her release this year, the former president had stayed under hospital arrest at VMMC since 2012, interrupted only by brief furloughs.
She had been detained on plunder charges for the alleged misappropriation of PHP 366 million in state lottery funds between 2004 and 2007 when she was president. In July, the charges were dismissed by the Supreme Court in a controversial decision.
Arroyo, who was re-elected to the House of Representatives even under hospital arrest, is now serving her last term.
Her Bill noted that VMMC was under the control and supervision of the Department of National Defense (DND), receiving a “measly one percent” of the agency’s annual budget.
“Unlike other government hospitals such as the Philippine Heart Center, Lung Center, Kidney Center, Philippine General Hospital and Philippine Children’s Medical Center, the VMMC does not have its own charter and has no other source of income to support the free care and treatment of veterans, retirees and their dependents,” she said.
Under Arroyo’s proposal, VMMC will have its corporate entity that shall be governed by a board of trustees, with the defense secretary as chair and the hospital’s medical director as vice-chair.
Other members will include the chair of the Senate committee on defense and security, the chair of the House committee on veterans affairs and welfare, and the secretary of health.
The board shall have the power to set rules and regulations that will govern the administration and operation of the hospital, as well as enter into agreements deemed desirable for the purpose of promoting its purposes and objectives, according to the Bill.
The Bill also seeks to protect VMMC from any sale or disposition of its assets, stating that its core zone “shall not be sold, transferred, ceded, conveyed, assigned and encumbered.”
“The preservation of the value of the assets of the hospital shall be of primary consideration,” she said.
She said the DND was also reported to be studying the sale or lease of its golf course.
She said all existing assets of VMMC must be under the control and supervision of the hospital with the issuance of all the corresponding certificates of landholding in its favor.
“(Any) mechanism and arrangements shall not conflict with the medical or health services and academic mission of the hospital and any plan to generate revenues and other sources from land grants and other real properties entrusted to the hospital shall be consistent with the hospital mission and orientation as a vehicle to extend health services to veterans and their dependents,” she said.