By Limuel Celebria
Finally, my precious Guarantee Letter has been approved and released by the DSWD regional office paving the way for my new anti-cancer treatment procedure – a combined oral and intravenal chemotherapy protocol to commence soon.
This came after several weeks of artful cajolement and shameless begging with friends in the different congressional districts of the city and province. Iloilo is lucky – aside from its five regular congressional districts, it also has two party-list representations. Tuis, it is overflowing in pork-barrel fat.
But wait. What is a Guarantee Letter (GL)? In normal business transactions, a guarantee letter is a document issued by a bank that ensures suppliers get paid for the goods or services it delivers to a buyer or company up to a certain amount indicated in the letter.
With government agencies like the Department of Social Welfare (DSWD) and/or the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), the GL has taken on new meaning and significance. It can save lives and build up political careers.
In the case of the DSWD/PCSO or even the Office of the Vice President (OVP), the GL is a document issued by the agency in favor of the beneficiary and addressed to suppliers/service providers to guarantee payment of the goods/service availed of by the beneficiary. Our congressmen have access to this funding facility through their so-called soft (or non-infrastructure) projects/programs like DSWD’s Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation.
The AICS is a “catch-all” phrase, it can mean anything from a whole range of family and personal problems that need financing assistance. Each congressional district is allotted a slice of this fund which he can release to his indigent constituents asking for financial help – mostly to pay hospital bills, purchase medicines, and other medical needs.
In my case, the GL could literally become a life-saver. I’ve been battling renal cancer with pulmonary metastasis (stage IV) for over a year now. During the first five months of treatment, I spent for my medication out of my pocket with some help from family and friends. It was exhausting, to say the least, waging a war on two fronts – physical and financial. Fortunately, the AICS opened doors for me. I’ve discovered that because I am friends with our congressmen and their staff through my work as a journalist and columnist, I could have access all the congressional fat in the ciity and province of Iloilo (except for one district). Since the second quarter, I haven’t found much difficulty looking for funds to buy my anti cancer meds.
But in July, another dilemma arose. While my medicine, Pazopanib has done well in controlling the spread of my cancer, it has simply served as a palliative and may have reached its peak efficacy level. My oncologist said I need to upgrade my medication. She prescribed a combined oral-intravenal treatment protocol. Hopefully, this will get rid of the cancer for good (pls knock on wood). The problem – it will cost a total of P1.2 million for a three month period and I have found no supplier that will accept a GL.
In September, my pulmonary condition took a turn for the worse and I had to spend nearly a month in the hospital. This reinforced the message that I really need to upgrade medication no matter the cost.
In October, in yet another fortuitous event, I met a medical representative during the anniversary celebration of St. Paul’s Hospital’s Cancer Center. She said her company was offering discounts on the medicine I needed. I asked her bluntly if they accept Guarantee Letters from the DSWD. She said yes. She was heaven-sent.
Immediately, I submitted the medical protocol prescribed by my oncologist yet several months ago — pembrolizumab (6 shots @P154,000 per shot) and lenvantinib (20mg/tab x 180 days = P246,309) for a total cost of P1,170,309,00 for a period of three months. The company, Globo Asiatico Enterprise, immediately issued me a price quotation addressed to DSWD Region VI.
But in yet another case of “ a glass half full,” my GL request took a while to process. Thus, of the six chemo shots recommended in the prescription, only three were approved since the other three shots would happen in January which would fall into next year’s funding period already. In another sad twist, COA rules dictate that I can avail of the GL not in January but in March which means I may have to personally spend about P400,000 for the missing three chemo shots in order to follow continuity in my medical protocol.
Still, I must thank God for his mercies and let tomorrow take care of itself.