Marcos thanks nurses amid health workers’ cry vs delayed benefits, red-tagging

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·3 min read
MANILA, PHILIPPINES - SEPTEMBER 01: Health care workers hold a protest in front of the Department of Health to demand better wages and benefits amid rising COVID-19 cases in Manila, Philippines on September 1, 2021. (PHOTO: Dante Diosina Jr./Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
MANILA, PHILIPPINES - SEPTEMBER 01: Health care workers hold a protest in front of the Department of Health to demand better wages and benefits amid rising COVID-19 cases in Manila, Philippines on September 1, 2021. (PHOTO: Dante Diosina Jr./Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. has expressed his thanks to the country’s nurses amid protests from public and private health care workers due to the delay of their COVID-19 allowance and the red-tagging of some of their fellow frontliners.

During the 100th founding anniversary of the Philippine Nurses Association in Manila on Thursday (Sep 1), Marcos called the nurses “my heroes” while also promising better pay and improving work conditions after the pandemic has surfaced some long-standing problems of the country’s health care system.

“We will open more slots for the deployment of nurses abroad, while striving to improve opportunities domestically,” Marcos Jr. said.

The country has seen mass resignations of nurses, especially during the pandemic, due to being overworked, and underpaid, with some dying from COVID-19. This has also prompted some nurses to seek opportunities abroad as economies in other countries eased.

Delay of COVID-19 allowance, benefits

On Friday (Sep 2), healthcare workers led by the Alliance of Healthcare Workers (AHW) staged a protest in front of San Lazaro Hospital in Manila demanding the government release the full amount of the One COVID-19 Allowance (OCA) that was granted to them.

Robert Mendoza, president of the Alliance of Health Workers, called for Marcos Jr. to order the Department of Health (DOH) to release the health workers' benefits.

Nakakalungkot isipin na ang Department of Health at ang DBM (Department of Budget and Management) ay nagtutulakan sa kanilang mga issue regarding sa ating COVID-19 allowance,” Mendoza said.

(It makes us sad thinking that the Department of Health and Department of Budget and Management are just pointing at each other regarding our COVID-19 allowance.)

Tayo ay dismayado sa mga pangakong benepisyo na dapat ibigay na. Sa tagal ng aming paghahantay hanggang sa kasalukuyan ay di pa rin nabibigay ang One COVID Allowance, hindi pa rin natatas ang sahod kahit sumirit na lahat ng presyo ng bilihin,” he added.

(We are disappointed in the government’s promised benefits that should have already been given. Up until the present, the One COVID Allowance has not been released yet, our salary has not been raised yet despite the skyrocketing prices of commodities.)

Mendoza said that about 60% of healthcare workers are yet to receive their OCA, which grants P9,000 per month to those who work in high-risk areas, P6,000 to those in moderate-risk areas, and P3,000 for those in low-risk areas.

The healthcare workers are also still reportedly waiting for the release of their health emergency allowance (HEA) from July to December 2021.

Red-tagging of healthcare workers

Earlier, doctors, lawyers, and other health workers also staged a protest from the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to demand an end to the red-tagging of health workers especially community medicine practitioners in the country’s far-flung areas.

Kami pong mga doktor, nagsisilbi. And we are dedicated to saving lives. And yet, ang aming pong buhay ay palaging at risk during this time, dahil gusto lang naman namin na bigyan kami ng kaluwagan na kami ay gumanap sa aming duties bilang doctors to save lives and to take care of our patients without the fear of having us red-tagged,” Dr. Magdalena Barcelon of the Community Medicine Practitioners and Advocates Association (COMPASS) said.

(Us doctors, we serve the people. And we are dedicated to saving lives. And yet, our lives are always at risk during this time, because we only want to be given freedom to perform our duties as doctors, to save lives, and to take care of our patients without the fear of having us red-tagged.

Barcelon noted that seven doctors and one health worker have already died in the past six years, mostly under former President Duterte’s administration, after being red-tagged.

In 2019, Duterte’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) included health worker group AHW in its list of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-affiliated organizations–which has since been debunked by progressive groups.

In 2020, community doctor Mary Rose Sancelan, who headed the rural health unit of Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental was murdered with her husband after being red-tagged for a year.

Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. She advocates for animal welfare and press freedom. Follow her on Twitter @polarubyo for regular news and cat postings. The views expressed are her own.

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