Dear Mr. Aquino,
You may not remember me but we’ve met before. I can actually name at least 3 times that we’ve met. The first time was when your mum was in the hospital, God rest her soul. You were obviously occupied then. The next time we met, you were running for president then. It was 2010 and I was graduating from my pediatric residency. I remember part of your speech then where you encouraged us to stay in the Philippines, be good doctors here, serve the people. You asked us to prevent any more brain drain than what the Philippines was already experiencing. Help build the country, you said.
Well, you’re the president now, it’s been 4 years since that day and I’ve held up my end of the deal. I’ve voted, I’ve been vocal about my opinions and my wishes for the country. I’ve stayed, when I could have left, I’ve treated the patients, I’ve done my best. I’ve put the welfare of others before my own and my family’s and I have given blood, sweat, and tears in the service of my fellowmen. I have done my civic duty and I have been involved. Most of all, I have helped bankroll the many activities this country has been doing because I have paid my taxes properly, in full and on time. A quick perusal of my tax history should tell you this. And in return for all that, I am still characterized as a cheat and a tax evader, a burden to the people.
Never mind that I hardly make enough to pay off all my expenses. I’m a young pediatrician, considered lucky by many standards, and I’m not one to waste money. Yet I still am just barely able to make ends meet. When I pay my taxes, I’m not sure if I’ll have enough left over for rent. Or for gas. Or to pay off my vaccines. Or will I be able to save money at all. In my line of work, we don’t get retirement benefits. We either save up and build a nest egg or work until we drop dead. But I still pay my taxes. Never mind if a patient who hadn’t paid before decided to pay all in one go. I swallow and take a deep breath, knowing that that receipt I’ll issue could make or break my month. I still issue a receipt and pay my taxes. Because that’s what good citizens do.
So when I open the newspaper and I see that people have siphoned off billions of pesos of my hard earned money, it makes me angry. When their children use it for a million-dollar birthday party to be with Justin Bieber, it makes me furious. How many children in the hospital could that party have saved? How many people could that have housed and fed? How many vaccines could it have bought? How many farmers helped? It makes me sick to my stomach.
AND THEN, this ad comes along. I’ve known that BIR has issues with the medical community. I don’t know if it’s some unspoken angst you all have for the vaccinations we’ve given you as children or it’s because of your belief that you won’t ever get sick and have no need for physicians. But this was downright insulting. To portray physicians as a burden, to make a sweeping statement through this ad that physicians evade taxes and therefore are burdens, is not only irresponsible, but is reprehensible. Whilst I will not dispute that not all doctors can say this but I for one pay my taxes properly.
I still pay taxes but always with a heavy heart. And you sir, have not kept up your part of the deal. I’m not asking for protection, I can handle it. But because of the continued attacks on my profession, I am now seriously thinking of giving up the practice here in Manila and moving somewhere else (I think I hear London calling). Good luck with the doctors that are left behind. The numbers applying to medical school are getting smaller, and those that do graduate will not want to stay around if this is what they’re looking forward do.