Not one COVID-19-infected Filipino healthcare practitioner working in the frontlines has received sickness and death benefits owed to them by the government under the Bayanihan [Camaraderie] Act of 2020, Senator Sonny Angara said in yesterday’s plenary session.
Angara, who chairs the Senate finance committee said that lack of implementing rules and regulations (IRR) from the Health Department has led to nearly three months of delay in implementing the cash aid assistance, a “serious neglect” which is nothing short of “criminal.”
Under the said act, health workers severely infected with the virus should receive a compensation of PHP100,000 (US$1,991), while families of workers who died from COVID-19 while in the line of duty should receive PHP1 million (US$19,900) in payouts. The law was enacted in March.
“We’re told that because there was no IRR, no one has been able to avail [the aid],” the senator said.
“That is serious neglect… It’s quite upsetting to find out that so many months have gone with the DOH [Department of Health] not crafting the IRR. So many health workers have suffered, whether they died or are severely afflicted,” he added.
“I think it should be paid as soon as possible… It’s really criminal, this neglect to pass this and to delay these types of benefits. We keep praising them as our heroes and yet it’s merely lip service if we don’t give them anything material,” Angara said.
Fellow lawmakers echoed Angara’s dismay, with Senator Francis Pangilinan saying the neglected payouts is “unacceptable and unforgivable,” putting the blame squarely on the DOH.
“This is truly disappointing and truly indicative of the lack of compassion of whoever in the DOH is supposed to have addressed this with the IRR,” Pangilinan said.
Senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon, meanwhile said that the lack of IRR shouldn’t justify the inaction.
“You don’t need implementing rules and regulations here. The law is very clear. They have already died, a little investigation would tell us that you can pay them because they died while on the frontline. That’s a no-brainer,” Gordon said.
“The lack or absence of the IRR should not be an excuse not to comply with the law,” Lacson added.
Angara said that the Senate will be sending out a formal letter to concerned agencies to fast-track the enactment of the said measure, adding that they “will do what we can to nudge them in the right direction.”
At least 32 health workers in the country have died from COVID-19 and two other frontliners are severely ill from the disease, according to Gordon, who also chairs the Philippines Red Cross.
Earlier, the DOH said that the top five medical workers that reported COVID-19 cases are nurses (with at least 841 cases), physicians (671), nursing assistants (144), medical technologists (84), radiology technologists (42), and non-medical hospital staff (284).
This article, No coronavirus-afflicted health worker received gov’t aid, says Senator Angara, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!