Duterte spares Duque, threatens to sack DOH execs over delayed compensation for virus-hit health workers

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 5) — President Rodrigo Duterte scolded officials of the Department of Health, but spared Secretary Francisco Duque III, over delays in the release of cash benefits to healthcare workers afflicted with COVID-19.

In a speech taped on Thursday and aired on Friday morning, the President threatened to sack DOH officials.

"The power to appoint carries with it the power to dismiss. Since it's an absolute thing for total loss of confidence, I'm removing them because they're not functioning. We are wasting money paying for these idiots," he said during a speech held in Davao City.

He did not specify who among DOH officials will be punished, but he clearly spared Duque from the blame.

The Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, approved in March, grants ₱100,000 to healthcare workers with "severe" COVID-19 infection and ₱1 million to the families of those who died from the viral illness. Three months since the law was passed, no compensation has been given to any of the more than 2,600 medical frontliners who have tested positive for COVID-19. Thirty-two of them died.

The revelation in a Senate hearing on Tuesday prompted Duterte to give DOH until June 9 to complete what is stipulated in the law.

"You cannot run your own errands, 'yung trabaho mo, kung ikaw lahat. Somebody has to do it for you. Itong mga p****i** na ito, I do not think they are prepared to join the government," he told Duque.

The embattled health secretary also criticized his subordinates for delay in release of benefits.

"Nakakahiya talaga. Namatayan na nga, tapos nagpawardi-wardi ang mga tao ko. Parang walang sense of urgency. Talagang ang sama-sama talaga ng loob ko," he said.

After receiving flak online for expressing disappointment towards his staff, Duque said he "acknowledges this is still my responsibility." 

Duterte tasked Duque to form a new team within 24 hours to oversee the faster distribution of aid to affected families.

DOH on Friday said the first batch of the 32 checks have already been released to the bereaved families, while the remaining checks are ready for pick-up and delivery to the recipients. It said distribution will be prioritized in the next two days.

Health Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier explained that the release of the sickness and death benefits was delayed as the agency needed to find the money to make the payments.

She said they earlier eyed charging the benefits to the Government Service Insurance System or Social Security System but later decided against it.

She added Duque has signed a joint administrative order along with the Budget and Labor departments, instead of issuing implementing rules and regulations. The absence of an IRR was among the reasons earlier cited for the delay in health workers' compensation.

The funding will now come from the DOH's Medical Assistance Fund, which is currently at ₱100 million. A total of 79 healthcare workers who fell severely ill will receive ₱100,000 each while the families of the 32 fatalities will get ₱1 million.

The World Health Organization in April sounded the alarm over the high infection rate among healthcare workers in the Philippines. The government said the situation has improved following the purchase of more personal protective equipment for frontliners.