Go slams slow distribution of health workers’ benefits, but shuns interpellations on his speech

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 5) – Senator Bong Go criticized on Thursday the slow response of government agencies in giving the benefits of COVID-19 infected health workers.

Go particularly mentioned the Department of Budget and Management, Department of Health, and Department of Labor and Employment for the snail-paced distribution of ₱100,000 sickness and ₱1 million death benefits to affected health workers as mandated by the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

"Bakit po nangyari ito? Dumaan ang Abril, dumaan ang Mayo, ngayon Hunyo na. Hanggang ngayon, hindi pa naibibigay ang benepisyo na dapat matanggap ng ating health workers o ng kanilang mga pamilyang naulila," Go, chairperson of the Senate committee on health, said in his privilege speech.

[Translation: Why did this happen? April and May passed and now it is June. Until now, the health workers or the families they left behind did not receive their benefits.]

Go reminded undersecretaries and other executive branch government officials to help their respective chiefs in this time of pandemic.

"Kung ayaw nyong magtrabaho, eh ‘di umalis na kayo. Ginagawa na nga ng Pangulo ang lahat, eh ang mga tao sa baba ayaw tumulong, ayaw gumalaw, umalis na kayo,” stressed Go.

[Translation: If you don’t want to work, leave your position. The President is doing all he can but if the people down there don’t want to help or move, then they should leave their job.]

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said yesterday that President Rodrigo Duterte was angry and frustrated over the delay of compensation for virus-hit health workers, thus ordering the concerned government agencies to distribute the benefits until June 9.

READ: Duterte gives DOH until June 9 to give cash benefits to virus-hit health workers

In the Senate finance committee hearing last June 2, DOH officials admitted they failed to implement the distribution because of the lack of implementing rules and regulations.

However, Go ended his privilege speech by refusing interpellations from colleagues on the matter.

Senate Minority Floor Leader Franklin Drilon then asked Senate President Tito Sotto if the refusal of taking questions after privilege speeches is the “new normal” in the Upper House.

“We commend the gentleman from Davao for taking the privilege hour to call the attention of the bureaucracy in its neglect of the frontliners. I just want to know, however, if this is the new normal that we have, Mr. President, not allowing interpellations on the floor. In an effort to thresh out or strengthen the positions that we would take on national issues, I'm placing that on the floor,” said Drilon.

Drilon acknowledged that senators have the privilege of refusing questions from colleagues in their privilege speech, but the neophyte senator’s action is not the practice of the Senate.

Go has repeatedly rejected questions from fellow senators during his privilege speeches.

"It is the prerogative of the senators, but indeed it was never the practice not to entertain any question every time you rise on the floor. I don't think it is, definitely not," said Sotto.

Go welcomed the reminder from Drilon and Sotto but also gave his take on the concerned parliamentary act.

“Thank you very much for the reminder but it depends on the issue, I'm willing to be interpellated but in this issue, it is my privilege and we will waste time if you will ask more questions. Remember that we are colleagues here, we are elected by the people and we are all senators. I am not your student, and you are not my proctor,” Go affirmed.

Last year, Go was criticized by netizens after he was seen being repeatedly coached by resource persons while defending the budget of the agencies he was sponsoring in the plenary.