During Saturday’s Independence Day celebration in Malolos City, President Rodrigo Duterte said the government would construct a monument—the “Wall of Heroes”—at the Libingan ng mga Bayani to remember the medical frontliners who died of COVID-19.
“Those who perished—our doctors, our nurses, our medical attendants—will be honored. Their names will be inscribed on that wall… In the past year, they have risked their own lives and sacrificed their own comfort and security to ensure that our society will continue to function despite this crisis,” the President said.
Since the virus came to our shores last year, medical frontliners—doctors, nurses and other health professionals—have had their own substantial share of exposure to COVID-19 resulting in prolonged illnesses and even death. Nonetheless, even as they saw their colleagues become infected with the virus, the rest of the frontliners carried on despite the difficulties that came with coming to work, with having to wear personal protective equipment—if they were well-provided to begin with—while on duty, and taking precautions to avoid infecting their families at home.
Their heroism and dedication to their profession have always been acknowledged, but up to a certain point, recognition can only do as much.
This week we heard that the hazard pay and special risk allowance for medical frontliners for the first six months of the year—we are halfway into the first half—are still being processed by the Department of Budget and Management.
In an interview over Dobol B TV, Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega admitted that the much-needed allowance is yet to be released.
Health care workers are not strangers to low and delayed pay. They have complained about this, while many have resigned or looked for employment outside the country, putting the already precarious health care system in greater peril and especially when we still have not seen an improvement in the number of new COVID cases.
Monuments to the fallen are good symbols. It is always good to be remembered for your sacrifices, albeit posthumously. While the government is at it, however, it should remember its swift action to compensate the living frontliners for their efforts would be a tangible, more meaningful tribute.