Some outsourced employees assigned at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) sent me a letter-complaint asking for my assistance to remind the hospital administration about the hazard pay that was promised to them at the start of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic last year. The employees, 300 of them, are officially employed by Perfect Clean, an outsourcing agency engaged in janitorial services owned and managed by Talisay City Councilor Marieta “Yenyen” Bucao, wife of Talisay City Vice Mayor Allan Bucao.
The complainants claimed that last year when the health crisis began, they were promised by the hospital administration through lawyer Paul Gino Lopez, admin and legal officer, that they would be given a hazard pay of P500 per day as they are considered frontliners. Their work, the complainants claimed, is to escort and bring patients who underwent the RT-PCR swab test at the hospital and who tested positive to various isolation facilities in the city. Others served in the janitorial services department and they were also exposed to Covid patients confined in the hospital. But until now, they have not received even a single centavo of the promised hazard pay.
When I discussed the matter during my radio commentary program over dySS Super Radyo, Councilor Bucao reacted. She explained that her agency had nothing to do with the hazard pay. Had the hospital administration like their other clients/principals given additional incentives to their outsourced employees through their agency, they would have given these to the employees without any deductions. But usually, if their clients give incentives to their employees, their clients give it directly to the employees. In this case, Vicente Sotto did not give additional incentives to the outsourced employees.
I tried to contact Attorney Lopez several times but my texts and calls were unanswered. Can Dr. Gerardo Aquino, hospital director, explain this? Is this a case of the old classic saying, “Promises are made to be broken?”
I think there is nothing wrong if some local chief executives decided to get themselves injected with the vaccine against Covid-19 along with medical frontliners even though they are not on the list of priority recipients. Why wouldn’t mayors be among the first to be vaccinated? For me, it’s no big deal. This is a case-to-case basis. We should identify those mayors who are considered “frontliners” and those who are not.
The mayors who were vaccinated first were criticized and could possibly face sanction. No less than President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to investigate and possibly charge these mayors.
Well, considering that there is an existing DILG and Task Force Covid memorandum that politicians should not be in the priority list in compliance with the directive of the World Health Organization (WHO), which donated the AstraZeneca vaccines, to prioritize medical frontliners, I think they should only be administratively sanctioned. All elected officials are under the DILG, so they should toe the line of its directive.
But there are two bones of contention on this issue. First, there are some mayors who are really “hands on” in response to the Covid-19 situation in their respective local government units. They visit hospitals and isolation facilities and physically interact with their constituents. So, they are also exposed to infected persons. I think it is just right that they will also be protected against the virus. Second, constituents look up to local officials as “role models.” A role model is someone who is worthy of imitation. They are idolized by their constituents. Some political supporters are even fanatics. They are even willing to fight and die for their “idol” because of loyalty.
With the high hesitancy rate of the public against vaccination, I think some of these “Doubting Thomases” will be enticed and convinced to submit themselves to vaccination upon knowing and seeing their local chief executives being vaccinated. The challenge at the moment is to raise the level of awareness, trust and confidence and to convince the public to be vaccinated given the latest results of various surveys conducted recently showing that more Filipinos are hesitant to be vaccinated. The surveys cited safety as the leading reason why they are not willing to be vaccinated. Even medical health workers who know a little about medicines are hesitant. How much more the ordinary people?
President Duterte, Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and prominent personalities are considered top endorsers of the vaccination program. So why not also include them in the priority list to convince members of the public to avail themselves of the vaccination program?