Duque blames âteamâ for delay in frontliner compensation
“It’s really shameful, sir. They suffered loss of lives and yet my people were taking it lightly, like there’s no sense of urgency. That really hurts me,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque said in Filipino late Thursday.
The STAR/Boy Santos, file

Duque blames ‘team’ for delay in frontliner compensation

Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star) - June 6, 2020 - 12:00am

DAVAO CITY, Philippines  – Summoned all the way from Manila by President Duterte to explain the delay in the release of cash assistance to medical workers who lost their lives to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said members of his team were to blame for the “shameful” oversight.

“It’s really shameful, sir. They suffered loss of lives and yet my people were taking it lightly, like there’s no sense of urgency. That really hurts me,” Duque said in Filipino late Thursday.

But later in his Twitter account, Duque said he was not washing his hands of the issue.

“While I expressed disappointment towards some members of my team, I acknowledge that this is still my responsibility as SOH (Secretary of Health),” he said.


Duque said he “will make sure that we comply with the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, with proper documentation and identification of healthcare workers.”

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire announced at a press briefing yesterday that compensation checks amounting to P1 million had already been distributed to the families of 13 of the 32 healthcare workers who died of COVID-19 infection.

At a meeting Thursday night here, Duterte called the attention of Duque to the problem and emphasized he won’t hesitate to “sacrifice” officials not acting fast enough to implement measures aimed at helping victims of COVID-19.

He said, “I am sorry to drag you into this far away province,” Duterte told Duque during the meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).

The President said it was unacceptable that processing of the benefits could be delayed for two months, considering that he had ordered that the money be released within 24 hours.

Duque said he had instructed his people not to go home until beneficiaries received claims.

The President earlier gave the DOH until June 9 to implement the provision of the Bayanihan law, which mandates a P100,000 benefit for health workers with severe case of COVID-19 and P1 million for the families of those who died from the disease. COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 32 health workers.

“And if we have to move fast, I will sacrifice you even if you are not really a laggard,” he said.

“There are so many well-intentioned and well-meaning Filipinos, doctors and all, who would want to serve government to contribute to humanity. And we do not have to suffer,” he said, acknowledging the sacrifices of health workers.

Also at the briefing, the President directed Duque to form a new team that will manage the distribution of cash assistance to health workers sick with COVID-19.

He said Duque should tap “persons of known honesty” who will “take care of these funds which ought to be in the hands of the intended beneficiaries by this time.”

The delay cropped up during the Senate deliberations on the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act last Wednesday.

Duque explained that the slow formulation of implementing rules caused the two-month delay.

“It’s been almost two months. The Joint Administrative Order to guide the distribution of one million to each of the 32 families who lost their loved ones came out just last June 2,” Duque said.

At the meeting, Duterte also told officials of the importance of teamwork and the need to act swiftly.

“Teamwork naman tayo. I understand your problem and I know that you have a hard time because of – there’s the due process... Now if you want it done in a hurry, the power to appoint carries with it a power to dismiss,” Duterte said.

“And since it’s an absolute thing for lack of – total lack – total loss of confidence, I’m removing them because they are not functioning,” he added. “So, we are wasting money paying for these idiots. They have high allowances and salaries.”

Duterte did not name the officials he wanted dismissed for inaction.

The President said while he understands how busy Duque is amid the health crisis, the embattled health chief should delegate authority to competent staff.

“I said ‘just like me you cannot run your own errands, you can’t do all the work,”’ Duterte said, addressing Duque.

“Somebody has to do it for you because you cannot really do it beyond human comprehension,” he added.

He advised Duque to seek help from other departments if necessary, particularly from the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

Meanwhile, Vergeire said the first checks were released on Thursday through Joint Administrative Order signed by the DOH, Department of Budget and Management and Department of Labor and Employment.

Vergeire added that 10 more checks were distributed in Metro Manila while two were released in Davao region yesterday.

The rest of the checks have been released to concerned DOH regional offices for distribution to intended beneficiaries.

DOH data showed that as of June 3, a total of 2,703 health workers have been infected with COVID-19, of whom 32 have died. Christina Mendez, Sheila Crisostomo

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