Dr. Farrah-Arsenia Agustin-Bunch write an open letter to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte
Dearest President Duterte,
I write this letter, for the sake of the sick and dying, with hopes and prayer that the Lord will touch your heart and you’ll hear the pleas of thousands of patients that I serve. I’ve contacted your office on numerous occasions with no official response received thus far. I also know that untold thousands of patients, healthcare advocates and affected family members have also contacted your office through the varied mechanisms. I humbly ask for your attention and assistance now.
The most important question I beg is, why has the injustice and oppression inflicted on my patients, my facility and I been allowed to continue? Why has FDA Director-General Charade Puno been allowed to flatly ignore our sovereign laws and our constitution with the closure of my facility, the outright denial of my rights & livelihood and the treatment choices/rights of my patients? Why must I live in hiding right now because of the complete failure of the PNP to even begin investigating the death threats against me that were attributed by members of your own intelligence service to “senior FDA enforcers”?
While I’m forced to live in a safe house to protect the lives of my family due to my vocal stances on Natural Medicine, the FDA and the promotion of Immunotherapy, two of my peers have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their work in Immunotherapy this month. (1) What is wrong with our country when instead of fostering a climate of scientific discovery and innovation, our leaders in the medical field desperately cling to the status quo (which isn’t working) and aggressively persecute those who dare to ask critical questions or, perish the thought, invent anything to help others. Can we not escape this crab mentality?
I always thought that if I could help people overcome chronic illnesses up to and including cancer, that my fellow doctors would hoist me onto their shoulders and we’d celebrate the discoveries. Instead, I find that most would rather ignore the successes, wreck my name and hang me from the nearest tree.
The Philippines healthcare system is in terrible distress Mr. President and profit is at the center of the rotten apple. We need to look no further than Dengvaxia to know the lure of easy money in our health sector. More Filipinos every year are suffering and dying from chronic health conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, cancer and heart disease. Since we’re seeing these health problems reaching epidemic levels, these are additional unmistakable failures of our Department of Health to do its job. We are now facing the very real prospect of life expectancies starting to decline.
Real science Mr. President is the innate desire for us to know the causes and cures for illnesses regardless of the financial rewards. The false science we now see promotes false causes and fabricates false conclusions in the interest of financial rewards. Instead of focusing on prevention and health education, we see pills prescribed for ills. The healthcare business needs sick people to survive Mr. President and does not concern itself with maintaining a healthy population. Healthy people are “bad for business” when it comes to pharmaceuticals. According to world-renowned researcher Dr. John Ioannidis and his team of scientists, up to 90% of the published information doctors rely on when it comes to treatments and prescribing is highly flawed or cannot even be duplicated. (2)
The pursuit of truth in modern medicine is obscured by greed, profit and power. In the book of Genesis, Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of stew and some bread. Today, medical doctors are selling their name, dignity and credibility for a free lunch from Pharmaceutical companies. I vocally object to this and am one of many medical heretics who demand patient centered care instead of profit centered care. Being a doctor is not about how many patients I can see, but how many I can see and care for very well.
Your letter yesterday to Senate President Sotto certifies your urgent concern of Universal Health Care for Filipinos. But, at the same time our citizens are aggressively being denied natural treatment options. Does this mean Universal Health Care should only be for highly profitable areas of medical and health treatment? Should the only participants be large hospitals and multi-national pharmaceutical companies? Why does the current draft of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act completely ignore natural medicine? How can we be responsive to the needs of the people if we limit their choices to profit driven treatments?
Like many others, I was very excited at the prospect of you being elected President. I even saw a quote which was attributed to you that said, “I am here because the Filipinos are suffering in the hands of corrupt government officials and its failure to protect and provide the needs of its people. I am here to correct and establish order in my beloved country.”
Mr. President, my facility was stormed and illegally closed by approximately 50 heavily armed men in a complete failure of due process and observance of our laws. It has denied countless thousands of Filipinos the Universal Health Care you want, that I was already providing to them for FREE in large part, since most of my patients were poor. It was an assistant of your Special Assistant and then again separately one of Mr. Go’s close friends, who both informed us that 9 pharmaceutical companies have joined forces with the 5 medical societies against me. As the leader of our country, why would such a thing be allowed to happen? Our government mandates of the TAMA Act of 1997 are directed at promotion and protection of traditional and alternative medicine in the Philippines, but practice seems to be little better than lip service. I have worked tirelessly to promote effective, natural treatment options for patients while everyone sits and watches the FDA used as a weapon for Pharmaceutical interests against me, with the PNP being the tip of the spear. Even now as PITAHC is trying to get regulatory control over herbal supplements, the FDA is vehemently fighting to keep that control.
I’m unsure if you saw Director-General Puno’s misleading testimony in Congress, but I cannot understand why what appears to be perjury in Congress, would be tolerated.
FDA Director-General Charade Puno has acted with extreme prejudice and malice regarding our situation and has likely committed several serious infractions which may include contravening;
The Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022
The Philippine Constitution
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Act of 2009 (Republic Act No. 9711)
Article 179 of the Revised Penal Code
Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code
Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code
Republic Act 493
We’ve had scores of volunteers join the investigation into the handling of our situation and have amassed an overwhelming amount of evidence including internal Department of Health and FDA documents. These clearly demonstrate serious, nefarious and potentially illegal internal practices in our Department of Health and Food and Drug Administration.
For example, here’s how our FDA treats a large Pharmaceutical Company compared to a small outpatient clinic. (3)
French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur was fined P100,000 (around $1,850 USD) by Director General Charade Puno of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and was not allowed to sell the Dengvaxia dengue vaccine for one year. (That is a fine of about 1000 pesos or $18.50 for each child whose death has been attributed to Dengvaxia thus far.) No criminal charges filed.
I was fined over P1,072,000 (around $20,000 USD) and given a permanent revocation of my (LTO) License To Operate as a food manufacturer, without a single complaint having been received at FDA by a patient. But, FDA filed criminal charges against me.
Who complained about me? The former acting Director General of the FDA, Dr. Kenneth Hartigan Go. Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go worked to rapidly deploy Dengvaxia. The Dengvaxia process should have taken about 3 years and instead was dropped into the market in about half a year. Could his deep connections to the Zuellig group be the reason? Why did Zuellig need to be the middleman between Sanofi and the DOH? Why didn’t Sanofi sell directly to the DOH? How much did Zuellig profit as the middleman on the deal? The heart drug Valsartan was recalled in 22 countries months ago because of an elevated risk of cancer. Why has FDA Director Puno not issued any statement or recall about it at all? Yet, she has taken the time to issue press releases about me after I was already closed. Is our FDA really concerned about the health of the public or are they just concerned about protecting multinational pharmaceutical companies?
Why is the FDA able to ignore the The Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018 (RA 11032)? Why must we be made to suffer their red tape, delays and unequal application of standards and practices? I can now demonstrate among many other things, product registrations at FDA approved in as short as a SINGLE DAY.
The role played, unusual hiring of and lack of FDA experience of the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the FDA Legal Support Services Center (LSSC), Atty. Michelle S. Lapuz, should be investigated forthwith. It’s been leaked by FDA insiders that the attorneys with food and drug experience in the (LSSC) of FDA wanted to dismiss this whole mess because of the bureaucratic bungling and illegal actions of Director-General Puno. But, it’s been alleged that Atty. Michelle S. Lapuz and Director-General Puno were adamant about ignoring sound legal advice and wanted to save face in spite of the mess that’s been created by pursuing action against me and my facility, which now includes a criminal complaint they just filed against me. Why does the FDA work with such haste in trying to wreck and prosecute me, yet they can’t seem to approve my products after years of trying? I’m illegally closed by an army of heavily armed men, besmirched in the press by Charade Puno and now they go so far as to file a criminal case against me? Charade Puno took my patients right to choice, she took my business, she took my livelihood and now she wants to take my freedom and separate me from my children too? Where will the oppression end Mr. President?
I now quote Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon, who said, “I prefer a government run like hell by Filipinos to a government run like heaven by Americans.” All of us would agree that there are many things that can be done to improve our government, and that leads me to what President Quezon said next when he stated; “Because, however bad a Filipino government might be, we can always change it.” Isn’t it time for a change Mr. President? Must I really be crushed underfoot by an FDA that is clearly being manipulated by pharmaceutical interests?
How long must we content ourselves with a government “leader” like Charade Puno who will openly break the law and then justify it? A “leader” who will put 4 stars on a costume and act like she’s a real General? A “leader” who is not qualified academically or even legally to hold her current post? A “leader” who will send a platoon of heavily armed men to raid a clinic as if a terrorist cell was hiding there. A “leader” who will allegedly seek cancer treatment overseas and deny the choice of treatment here in the Philippines that thousands of cancer patients are dying for, crying for, begging for, praying for and have a right to.
I humbly ask Mr. President that you begin an investigation into the actions of FDA Director General Charade Puno regarding the oppressive overkill used in my situation. I can provide all of the documents that have been uncovered thus far regarding the FDA and DOH. I’m also requesting investigation into the DOH release of the closure order for my facility under Sec. Duque of July 30th since it was issued and widely disseminated without jurisdiction. I would really prefer that the investigation comes from your office instead of all of these documents getting leaked to the public. There are a lot of very passionate people involved in collecting evidences and it will likely become increasingly difficult for me to keep them under wraps for very long.
I pray that this letter touches your heart and encourages action.
Dr. Farrah-Arsenia Agustin-Bunch, M.D.