Senate sends ‘strongly worded’ letter to DOH over delayed compensation of health workers
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate leadership has already sent a “strongly worded” letter to the Department of Health (DOH) after senators learned that the over 30 COVID-19 frontliners who died or became severely ill in the line of duty have yet to receive compensation as provided by law.
Under Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which was enacted back in March, health workers who become severely ill in the line of duty are to get a compensation of P100,000 while the family of those who died of COVID-19 in the line of duty should get P1 million.
“I sent a letter just now, a very strongly-worded letter to the DOH on why it did not implement that part of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III told reporters in an online interview on Wednesday.
“Dapat noon pa lang, magdadalawang buwan na,” he added.
(It has already been almost two months and they have yet to receive it.)
During Tuesday night’s interpellation of a measure providing for the country’s COVID-19 pandemic recovery plan, it was disclosed that the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) on the provision of compensation to medical workers have yet to be finalized.
But according to Sotto, the absence of an IRR should not hinder the implementation of the law.
“‘Wag niyo kaming gagamitan ng palusot ng IRR. Kailangan ii-implement kaagad yan. Definitely unacceptable. They have to do it, today,” he added.
(Do not use the IRR as a convenient excuse. That should be immediately implemented. Definitely unacceptable. They have to do it today.)
In a letter addressed to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Sotto urged the DOH to immediately implement the provision of the Bayanihan law granting benefits to the concerned healthcare workers.
“They are being so-called COVID-19 heroes and the accolades they received each day are enough reminders to get noticed by everyone, including you. But it seems that you pay no heed to these facts,” Sotto’s letter read.
“Assuming arguendo that an IRR is indispensable in the implementation of Bayanihan To Heal As Once Act, particularly on the grant of compensation to affected health workers or their families, then what hindered your office to draft and approve the said IRR for the past two months?” it added.
While Sotto said he is aware that the coronavirus pandemic is an “unprecedented crisis,” he told Duque that this should not be the reason “for your failure to do what is expected of you as Secretary of Health and the Chairperson of the (Inter-Agency Task Force).”
“May I remind you that we, as public servants, are duty-bound to cushion the effects that this pandemic brings and not to add to the problem or, worst, to be the problem and source of panic and further uncertainties in this already challenging world,” the letter further read.
In a separate letter to Duque, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senators Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay and Joel Villanueva “strongly” urged the health chief and the DOH to “immediately facilitate the distribution of the compensation provided under Sec. 4(f) of R.A. 11469.”
“While no amount will ease the loss of the families of our deceased health care workers and those who contracted severe COVID-19 infection, it is our belief that the amounts stated under the law will at least alleviate whatever financial burden they may encounter,” they said.
The lawmakers noted that the upper chamber had “labored hard” for the passage of the Bayanihan law “as a strong response to the pandemic, thinking that our frontliners would be provided all the support they need.”
“It is utterly disappointing that the compensation due still has not been claimed by our brave health care workers or their families more than two (2) months since its enactment,” their letter read.
Of the 18,997 confirmed coronavirus cases in the Philippines so far, a total of 2,669 healthcare workers have contracted the disease.
Of the number, 1,199 cases are deemed active, or those patients currently undergoing treatment or quarantine, 997 are mild, 201 are asymptomatic while only one is in severe condition.
There are 32 fatalities reported among healthcare workers in the country.
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