Sotto urges Duque to immediately pay health workers who have COVID-19

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Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III has urged the country's health chief to immediately compensate healthcare workers who have contracted COVID-19 amid reports that they have not received the promised benefits. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 3) — Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III has urged the country's health chief to immediately compensate healthcare workers who have severely contracted COVID-19 amid reports that they have not received the promised benefits.

Sotto penned a letter to Health Secretary Francisco Duque on Wednesday, giving a stern reminder that the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act mandates that infected health personnel and families of health workers who have died from the disease receive compensation.

"I urge your office to immediately implement Section 4, paragraph (f) of RA 11469 and update this representation of its status on a weekly basis," Sotto's wrote.

The law which was signed on March 24, allotted ₱100,000 to health workers who caught the illness and ₱1 million to those who may die fighting it. However on Tuesday, it was revealed in a Senate session that none of the frontliners could avail of the compensation due to the absence of implementing rules and regulations (IRR) from the Department of Health.

"No law has mandated that for any law to be effective an IRR is necessary," Sotto contested.

The Senate President also asked what would have hindered the department from coming up with the guidelines in the first place given that it has already been two months since the law was enacted.

"Their (healthcare workers) being so-called COVID-19 heroes and the accolades they received each day are enough reminder for them to get noticed by everyone, including you," the letter said. "But it seems that you pay no heed to these facts."

The DOH in a briefing responded, saying it is committed to upholding the law.

"This will be done through a Joint Administrative Order by the DOH, [Department of Budget and Management] and [Department of Labor and Employment] that is being finalized this week," said Health spokesperson Ma. Rosario Vergeire.

Vergeire said the agency is also reaching out to the families of the 32 healthcare workers who passed away for them to submit documents to claim benefits.

"We are also gathering information to identify those who were classified as severe patients so they can be informed also of this benefit," she added.

Some senators have had beef with Duque over the COVID-19 pandemic response even going as far as seeking his resignation.

But the secretary has been firm in staying in his post. President Rodrigo Duterte had also continued to vouch for the health chief.

More than 2,600 healthcare workers have already tested positive for COVID-19 while 32 have died. Some 1,430 also recovered, according to DOH.