File photo shows Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
The STAR/Mong Pintolo
Sotto asks Duque: Where is the aid for healthcare workers?
( - June 3, 2020 - 3:47pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 4:24 p.m.) — Health workers and their families who have contracted the novel coronavirus in the performance of their duties have not received the compensation owed to them as stipulated in the Bayanihan Heal as One Act, the law granting President Rodrigo Duterte special powers to address the COVID-19 crisis.

This was what Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in a letter addressed to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Wednesday afternoon, urging the latter to expedite the rolling out of aid to affected health workers and provide an update on his progress. 

"It is very disconcerting to know that after more than two (2) months of the above-cited law's implementation no health worker and his or her family has received their supposed renumeration (sic.) for sacrificing their own lives for our own. The purported reason being the lack of an implementing rules and regulations (IRR) to effectively execute a provision of the law," Sotto wrote. 

"Assuming arguendo that an IRR is indispensable in the implementation of Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, particularly on the grant of compensation to affected health workers or their families, then what hindered your office to draft and approved the said IRR for the past two months?" Sotto added. 

Republic Act 11469 in Section 4(f) hands the chief executive the power to: "provide compensation of One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000) to public and private health workers who may contract severe COVID-19 infection while in the line of duty." 

Philippine jurisprudence has reiterated the doctrine that every law has in its favor the presumption of validity, which contends that the mere absence of implementing rules does not invalidate the provisions of a law.

The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation in an earlier exchange with said that it was not in charge of enforcing the provision. 

For the past few months, Duque has been the target of much criticism over his performance as the country's health chief, which has materialized in the form of a Senate resolution calling for his resignation signed by 14 senators, including Sotto, where the senators slammed the health chief for his "failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight, and inefficiency in performance."

At the onset of the global pandemic, Duque was quoted as saying that the Philippines was a middle-income country and was thus not among the poor countries that the World Health Organization said were ill-equipped to deal with the new pathogen. 

"May I remind you that we, as public servants, are duty-bound to cushion the effects that this pandemic brings and not to add to the problem or worst, to be the problem and source of panic and further uncertainties in this already challenging world?" Sotto said in his letter.

As of this publishing, the new pathogen has infected 18,997 patients in the Philippines. 

The Department of Health has said that one in every five coronavirus cases is a health worker, who are among the most vulnerable to transmission. 

Wednesday marks the third day of general community quarantine in Metro Manila sans mass testing and adequate mass transportation.

"The efforts and sacrifices made by our healthcare worker-frontliners need not be more emphasized. Their being so-called COVID-19 heroes and the accolades they received each are enough reminders for them to get noticed by everyone including you, but it seems that you pay no heed to these facts," Sotto added.

"Our government has provided funds for the programs under the Bayanihan to Heal As Otte Art, which include the subject compensation. So, all the more reason for it to be implemented without delay and difficulty." — Franco Luna with reports from Prinz Magtulis and Gaea Katreena Cabico

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: July 3, 2020 - 4:44pm

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the bill that grants him special powers to address the novel coronavirus outbreak in the Philippines. Bookmark this page for updates. 

July 3, 2020 - 4:44pm

Opposition Sen. Leila de Lima says President Rodrigo Duterte continues to "play victim and recite his weekly lamentation 'wala na tayong pera' despite his emergency powers and a trillion-peso debt expedition.

"Duterte’s Bayanihan Law just expired and it left us no better than we were before. Sa madaling salita, PALPAK," the senator says.

"Tanong ng bayan – “saan ginastos ang pera at mga inutang?” Your answer is probably as good as mine," she adds.

June 25, 2020 - 12:53pm

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque says the Palace wants to extend the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act to address future needs like in Cebu City.

The city was placed on lockdown amid the increase of COVID-19 cases.

June 20, 2020 - 1:58pm

Opposition Sen. Leila de Lima calls for investigation on the delays and other logistical problems concerning the distribution of cash assistance for families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In order for the distribution of the remaining cash aid under the first tranche of the SAP and the cash aid under its second tranche may be facilitated in an expeditious and smooth manner, mechanisms that will respond to the glitches faced in the implementation thereof must be reviewed,” De Lima says.

“A senate inquiry in in aid of legislation will be the proper venue to hear the conflicting claims between the stakeholders, and help resolve the reported attendant issues in the implementation of the SAP – which the Senate, along with the House of Representatives, granted unto the President through the Bayanihan Act,” she adds.


June 19, 2020 - 9:53am

Ombudsman Samuel Martires says his office will issue subpoenas to Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III for the investigation of the budget for COVID-19 response.

In an interview with CNN Philippines' "The Source," Martires says his office started the investigation even before the lockdown was implemented in March 15.

"We have some documents we want to get from DOH, the subpoena is addressed to the secretary of department," Martires tells CNN Philippines Friday morning.

June 16, 2020 - 12:08pm

Government Service Insurance System reports that they have started to release the life insurance proceeds plus the additional P500,000 benefit  under its Bayanihan Fund for Frontliners to the families of four government frontliners who succumbed to COVID-19.

“GSIS recently released a total of P7.8 million in life insurance benefits plus an additional P2 million in BFF benefits to the legal heirs of four government medical frontliners who died of COVID-19. We are currently in the process of validating the insurance claims of 18 other claimant-families,” says GSIS President and General Manager Rolando Ledesma Macasaet. 

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