By Genalyn Kabiling
Concerned government agencies may be given a deadline by President Duterte to hasten the delivery of the compensation package intended for the country’s health workers, Malacañang said Wednesday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque recognized the need to extend the benefits due to health frontliners after several senators expressed dismay that no health worker has so far been compensated in the programs mandated under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
“I expect that in my conversation with the President, he will give a new deadline for those responsible in implementing the death benefits and other benefits due our frontliners,” he said over ANC’s Headstart program.
Several senators have called out the government for the alleged failure to compensate health workers under Republic Act No. 11469, the “Bayanihan to Heal As One Act” almost three months since it was signed into law.
Under the law, the government must provide P100,000 compensation to public and private health workers who get infected with the coronavirus in line of duty. A compensation of P1 million will be given to those who may die while fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
The law also stated that all public health workers must be provided with a COVID-19 special risk allowance in addition to the hazard pay granted under the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers, RA No. 7305.
The Bayanihan law, that authorizes the President to exercise powers to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, was signed last March 2 and will expire on June 24.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said the absence of the implementing rules and regulations should not be an excuse not to comply with the law. “The government owes them P32 million. It’s in the law,” he said.
Senator Richard Gordon also lamented the “serious neglect” in the implementation of the compensation package for health workers. According to Gordon, 32 health workers died due to the coronavirus disease while over 2,600 were infected.
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara had earlier said it was criminal to delay the benefits intended for the health workers. “These people, we keep praising them as our heroes but it’s just lip service if we don’t give them anything material,” he said.
Roque said the Palace agreed with the sentiment of the senators.
“We agree with the senators. That’s why in my talk, I will ask the President what’s now your mandate. Because the last (time) we talked (about)stranded OFWs, he simply said ‘I will give these people a deadline,'” he said.
He said the President may likely take a similar action by directing concerned agencies to act on the matter.
“Tomorrow when I meet with the President, I expect him to give the responsible parties again a deadline — when to give the benefits to those who have gotten sick which under the Bayanihan law is P100,000, and to the heirs of those who have died which is P1 million,” Roque said.