Cebu News

Ombudsman told: Correct the firing of 500 barangay health workers

Jean Marvette A. Demecillo - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - The president of Cebu City's Association of Barangay Councils wants the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate and correct the termination of over 500 barangay health workers in the city.

In his July 18 letter, Tisa Barangay Captain Phillip Zafra "seriously questioned" the validity of the the order issued by Mayor Tomas Osmeña through a July 4 memorandum terminating the services of the BHWs who are receiving honoraria from the city government.

Osmeña initially said the city government needed to cut expenses, especially City Hall's counterpart amount as BHW honoraria because of a "major deficit" in the city's coffers.

But last Friday, Osmeña gathered at least 500 BHWs from the north and south district of the city and told them of a one-month extension with pay and that they could reapply after the termination of their services.

"It is also worth noting that subsequent news reports purport (that) a certain councilor allied with the political party of the city mayor (was) encouraging terminated BHWs to approach City Hall to reapply. What then is the purpose of the BHWs termination if they were also encouraged to reapply?" Zafra said in his letter to Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Paul Elmer Clemente.

The anti-graft office received the letter last July 20.

Zafra, who is a City Council ex-officio member, said the termination of the services of the BHWs is not just "counter-productive but is inimical to the delivery of basic health services."

He cited Section 389 (b) (5) of the Local Government Code which states that "for the efficient, effective, and economical governance, the purpose of which is the ge-neral welfare of the Barangay and its inhabitants pursuant to Section 16 of this Code, the punong Barangay shall; upon approval by a majority of all the members of the Sangguniang Barangay, appoint or replace the barangay treasurer, secretary,and other appointive officials."

This provision, Zafra said, puts the power over the appointive barangay officials, like the BHWs, rightfully within the powers of the barangay captain, not the mayor. (In the case of the 500 BHWs, they work in their respective barangays but the ones giving them their monthly honoraria is City Hall.)

Despite the possibility of the BHWs being hired again, Zafra questioned the validity of the termination order because of the alleged lack of justification by the mayor.

"Assuming…that the city mayor has the authority to terminate the services of the BHWs receiving compensation from the city government, still this Office begs to question whether the unilateral and wholesale termination of these BHWs is proper in view of the fact that the memorandum in question failed to indicate the justification for their termination," he said.

Zafra also cited a Department of Interior and Local Government memorandum circular dated December 2010 issued by the late Secretary Jesse Robredo.

Under the DILG memorandum, Zafra said, barangay captains have the prerogative to appoint or replace barangay health workers, day care workers, barangay nutrition scholars, among others.

He said barangay captains are likewise "strongly encouraged to reappoint them unless it is proven that they are not performing effectively while in service in the past barangay administrations."

This is because these barangay workers have undergone trainings and have gained sufficient experien-ces doing field works.

Zafra said the barangay captains have the prerogative to appoint and/or replace BHWs even as the Local Health Board and the City Health Office are the ones responsible for their registration and accreditation, as stipulated under Republic Act No. 7883 (Barangay Health Workers Benefits and Incentives Act of 1995).

As of press time, Osmeña was still in Japan to celebrate his birthday  with family and close friends. (FREEMAN)

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