Senators lambasted the Department of Health (DOH) after it failed to distribute at least P32 million pesos compensation for families of “COVID-19 heroes” or medical frontliners who died serving COVID-19 patients.
“This is definitely unacceptable,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III told reporters in an online press briefing.
The senators stressed out that the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, or Republic Act No. 11469, explicitly mandated the government to give P1 million each to the families of nurses and doctors who lost their lives to save other patients suffering from the severe respiratory disease.
The government should also give P100,000 to health workers who would survive COVID-19 while in the line of duty, the law said.
The senators were alarmed and dismayed when they found out that the DOH had not carried out the said compensation provisions because of the absence of implementation rules.
“It’s really criminal, this neglect to pass this and to delay these types of benefits. We keep praising [medical front-liners] as our heroes, and yet it’s mere lip service if we don’t give them [compensation],” Senator Sonny Angara said.
Senator Richard Gordon, who had introduced the compensation provision, meanwhile called the DOH failure “serious neglect.”
Gordon reported that as of Monday, 2,669 medical frontliners were infected by the coronavirus, 32 had died while two were in critical condition.
No need for implementation rules to release compensation for COVID-19 heroes
Senator Panfilo Lacson clarified the absence of implementation rules should not hinder the compensation payment for the health workers or their families.
“It’s in the law. The lack or absence of [implementation rules] should not be an excuse not to comply with the law,” Lacson said.
“Why should we distinguish? They have already died. A little investigation will tell us that you can pay them because they died [on] the front line. That’s a no-brainer,” Senator Gordon agreed, saying implementation rules were not needed as the law is clear.
Sotto reminded Health Secretary Duque in a letter that the government had already allocated funds to compensate medical health workers and that the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act had been in effect since March 25.
“The efforts and sacrifices made by our health-care [workers] need not be more emphasized. Their being so-called COVID-19 heroes and the accolades they received each day are enough reminders for them to get noticed, including you. But it seems that you pay no heed to these facts,” Sotto told Duque.
“It is very disconcerting to know that after more than two months [after] the law’s implementation, no health worker and his or her family has received their supposed remuneration for sacrificing their own lives for our own,” he added.
Senators earlier filed a resolution to fire Duque for lack of leadership and alleged failure to fight the COVID-19 in the country. Duque, however, said he would remain in his post as long as the President trusts him.