President Rodrigo R. Duterte may set a deadline for government agencies to provide compensation to health care workers who became severely ill or died of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), Malacañang said on Wednesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the remark after senators expressed dismay that none of the more than 30 health care workers who contracted COVID-19 received compensation packages as mandated by the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act or Republic Act (RA) 11469.
Roque said the President may give agencies an ultimatum as he did when he asked, on May 25, the Labor and Health departments to ensure that all 24,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stuck in quarantine centers beyond the quarantine period were sent home within a week.
“We agree with the senators. That’s why in my talk I will ask the President, ‘What is now your mandate?’ Because the last time we talked about stranded OFWs, he simply said, 'I’ll give these people a deadline,'” Roque said in an interview on ABS-CBN News Channel’s Headstart.
He noted that he would raise the issue with the President when he attends the scheduled meeting with members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) in Davao City on Thursday.
Recent data showed that a total of 1,172 health care workers have contracted COVID-19, two of whom fell severely ill. Some 952 were mild cases while 218 were asymptomatic. A total of 32 health care workers have died of COVID-19.
Under the Bayanihan Law, public and private health care workers who become severely ill or died of Covid-19 in the line of duty are entitled to P100,000, while the families of those who succumb to the illness could get P1 million.
On Tuesday night, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, quoting the Department of Health, said none of the health care workers have availed of the provisions due to the absence of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the law.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said the absence of the IRR should “not be an excuse” for not complying with the law.
"It is totally unacceptable that the families of the 32 health workers who died due to COVID-19 have yet to receive the P1 million compensation, in clear violation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act," Lacson said.
Angara slammed the DOH for failing to work on the IRR.
"It's really criminal, this neglect to pass this (IRR); to delay these types of benefits. We keep praising them as our heroes but it's mere lip service if we don't give them anything material," he said.
Senator Francis Pangilinan said the failure to pay benefits to the 32 health care workers who died was “unacceptable and unforgivable.”
“They have already died, they have already suffered, and we continue to allow them to suffer more because of this failure and this inaction on the part of the Department of Health. This is completely and totally unacceptable," Pangilinan said.