We heal as one
TOWARDS JUSTICE - Emmeline Aglipay-Villar (The Philippine Star) - March 31, 2020 - 12:00am

I came across an uplifting video that was shared in some of my Viber groups which shows several Filipino artists singing the song “We heal as one.” It was composed by national artist for music Ryan Cayabyab, written by award-winning writer Floy Quintos, and dedicated to our frontliners against COVID-19. The chorus of the song goes, “Together we are being called to make a future world. The test we face is for us to prove that we can heal as one. We heal as one with kindness. We heal as one. We serve, we share, we show compassion… We heal as one.”

There is no other way to rise above and defeat COVID-19 other than by working together. Despite all the noise, negativity and fake news that flood our feeds, we can decide to focus on the positive, to be part of the solution, and to help from home. We can decide to be united, and we can decide to heal as one. 

We can start the healing by being grateful. I am most grateful to our healthcare workers and other frontliners who lay their lives on the line to fight this war against the virus for all of us. Both government and private sector are united in showing gratitude to our healthcare workers. Last March 24, Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan Heal As One Act was signed by President Duterte. Under the Act, public healthcare workers are given “COVID-19 special risk allowances” in addition to the hazard pay that is provided under the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers. Furthermore, all medical expenses of public and private healthcare workers caused by COVID-19, as well as any work-related injury or disease due to COVID-19, will be shouldered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth). Both public and private healthcare workers who may contract severe COVID-19 infection will be provided with P100,000, and healthcare workers who may die while fighting COVID-19 will also be given a compensation of P1,000,000. Although the risk that they take and the sacrifice that they make is priceless, it is good to know that the government is finding ways to take care of our frontliners.

Healing happens when we serve and share and I am seeing this in the numerous organizations and individuals who are doing their part to help. Many are raising funds for much needed medical equipment, testing kits, personal protective equipment (PPE), food for our frontliners and for affected workers and their families who have no money to support themselves during the quarantine period. My heart swells when I learn about all these efforts – may it be a friend who ordered lunch from McDonalds for medical frontliners; families making improvised face shields, fashion designers making and donating PPEs; celebrities who are raising funds to help, like Bela Padilla who has raised P3.3 million for informal sector workers and Angel Locsin who has raised money for tents to be used as isolation centers; hotels and similar establishments offering their facilities to be used as temporary lodging for healthcare workers; restaurants, food businesses, organizations and individuals who are providing meals and transportation to our frontliners… and the list goes on. 

Websites, like http://helpfromhome.ph and http://ph.phonebooky.com have already consolidated several efforts by different groups so that one can choose how to help and which organization to support. One can donate to keep our frontliners safe, nourished and provide them with transportation and lodging. One can also help families who have no income or means to support themselves during the community quarantine by providing food, basic health and hygiene products, and financial assistance. Any kind of help – whether big or small, makes a difference to fight COVID-19. 

Healing happens when we help and take care of each other especially those who are sick, vulnerable and cannot support themselves during this time of crisis. The Bayanihan Heal As One Act ensures that the treatment of those afflicted with COVID-19 will be covered by the National Health Insurance Program of the PhilHealth. The Act also provides for emergency subsidy of P5,000 to P8,000 a month for two months to 18 million low income households and it has reallocated funds for programs of the Department of Labor and Employment for workers affected by the quarantine, and projects of the Department of Social Welfare and Development that provide food and non-food essentials, livelihood assistance and feeding programs. It further provides for an expanded Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program, which provides cash vouchers or goods to household with no income or savings. 

The Act makes a way to access funds, which were previously allotted by law to other programs and purposes. These funds are now reallocated to respond to the demands and challenges of COVID-19, not only for frontliners and vulnerable families but also for fighting the disease through measures that provide proper education, detection, protection and treatment. The Act also supports the productive sectors of the economy by lowering the effective rates of interest and it aids individuals by moving the deadlines for the submission of documents, and the payment of taxes and fees that are required by law. It also mandates that a minimum 30-day grace period be given for the payment of residential rent. A minimum 30-day grace period should also be given for the payment of all loans by banks, quasi-banks and financial institutions, without incurring any interest or fees. Thank you to our legislators for making these concessions possible.

I am also grateful for the work that our government is doing to fight COVID-19. President Duterte and the Inter-Agency Task-Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases made hard decisions at the right time and I believe these moves have helped us slow down the spread of COVID-19. Together with our law enforcement officers and heads of local government units, I am thankful that they keep us safe, maintain order within our communities and find ways to provide aid, especially to those who need it the most. 

In the last weeks, I have seen the goodness in people shine through and I know this virus is nothing when faced against the strength of a whole nation – working as one, healing with kindness, compassion and courage. The only way to defeat COVID-19 is as one. We heal as one!

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