To the Tax Man

by carlocmd

“It’s a very Filipino trait,” she said, “to pull down another person, in order to become better.” This was the explanation of the Tax Man on why the ads in the papers and television portray doctors as tax evaders. She was probably referring to the “crab mentality.” Place a bunch of crabs in a pot of hot water and see them try to scramble out. When one is almost at the top, ready to breach the edge, see another pull down its legs to gain a foothold, an upper hand. The Tax Man explained, “this is how we behave towards each other, so I see nothing wrong with this ad. If you feel this ad alludes to you, then bato-bato sa langit, ang tamaan ay huwag magalit (stones thrown up in the air, whoever gets hit should not be angry).”

So the reputation of the doctor in this third world is tarnished. You see it in the comments section of any major newspaper. They say doctors should not be too thin skinned. That if you react, then there is truth to the statement. The stories come out, a doctor not issuing a receipt here, another charging more for services if a receipt is asked… making isolated events the norm, speaking of these and being rehashed — until all stories become true, simply because it was said so many times.

And here I am, reading the vitriol prose of these ignorant commenters, undoubtedly sad and infinitely disappointed in our lot. Yes, there are a few bad doctors. But there is a greater number who aren’t. There are many silent workers out there, feeling the injustice of these accusations, but still carrying on God’s work.

Here I am, in the clinic. Still working, still caring, still healing, still praying.

A patient came in last week. He was about 80 years old. He was bleeding from the anus. I did a colonoscopy and removed a large, bleeding polyp. The histopathology did not show a cancer, which was what we were thinking of, because of its size, appearance, and behavior. After the procedure, the bleeding stopped. He returned to normal activities, with no more blood coming out. I charged one hundred pesos (USD 2) because these were friends of my parents.

Why charge one hundred pesos? The Tax Man said that if you do not charge a patient, you must execute an affidavit that you did not charge any amount. An affidavit costs approximately one hundred pesos. This entails drafting a document and visiting a notary lawyer. Such unnecessary labor! But this is the impeccable logic and inviolate rule of our Tax Man.

He broke down in tears, thanking God. Then, unexpectedly, he turned to me and said, “You are a wonderful instrument of God.”

The sadness and disappointment lifts.

This society may brand doctors as cheats. It may hurl undeserved accusations at us, the silent majority of doctors, and our work. We are unfairly condemned, pulled down, ridiculed, and frowned upon.

But these precious moments — when you make a difference in just one life — make these trials and troubles disappear.

To the Tax Man, we say, “No, we will not resort to pulling you down, like you do to us everyday.”

We do not believe that an-eye-for-an-eye is a valid course of action. You wrongly believe that the only way to increase tax compliance is to shame an entire profession. And if you continue to believe that shaming doctors will work, then we will pray for you. Despite your ignorance, we will continue our work. Despite the shame, we will continually show you that we are better than what you think. We will show you that we are not crabs, but people helping people.

We heard you when you said that you are only implementing the law, recognizing its flaws, but is unable to change it. We hope that you will be true to your promise that after your stint as the Chief Tax Man, you will enter the medical profession.

We pray that you experience how naturally easy it is for real doctors to give up material possessions in order to give medicine to the sick. We hope you feel the inexplicable gnawing hunger as you train, your sleepless nights watching over the sick in the wards. We hope you feel the loneliness of duty, as you will choose to care for a stranger instead of spending time with the family. We hope you too experience daily grief in your training, and despite this grief still be able to wake, work, and change a bad thing for the better.

May you be given the clinical eye, able to see a patient’s medical problem, recognizing how a body can go wrong and get sick, AND still move heaven and earth to CARE, to change things for the better. May you realize that by working together, in harmony, do people’s lives improve.

To my doctor friends, keep on doing good work.