SENATE Blue Ribbon Committee chair Richard Gordon has challenged Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III “to take the risk” and give special risk allowance (SRA) to health-care workers (HCWs) even if they do not cater to Covid-19 patients.
This, as Duque said that the P311.79 million SRA, covered by DBM’s Special Allotment Release Order, has been downloaded to hospitals as of August 25, for over 20,000 health workers.
Alliance of Health Workers National President Robert Mendoza asked during the Blue Ribbon hearing if all HCWs would be able to receive the SRA even if they are not directly exposed to Covid patients like janitors and other hospital personnel, to which Gordon reminded Duque that “this was the agreement” since hospitals are considered as hazardous areas.
“Did you consider that situation?” Gordon asked Duque.
“I have expressed my support for that and I’ve written the good chairman [of] COA [Commission on Audit] about the liberal interpretation of the provision of law [on] the grant of SRA. I will await the good chairman’s response because the position of DOH Executive Committee is that it would be best that there would be a law created to allow for the grant of SRA, to not just who are directly in-care of the patients or in direct contact but everyone in the facility, owing to the high transmissibility of the Delta variant, everybody is at risk,” Duque said.
Gordon had pointed this out to Duque in the first Blue Ribbon hearing last week on the COA report flagging “deficiencies” in DOH’s management of pandemic funds.
Duque said on Wednesday he also asked the technical advisory group of experts to prepare some inputs that may be considered by Congress and Senate by “crafting a law that will have technical undertakings coming from our experts on a matter of Delta variant and its intense transmissibility.”
Urging Senate to file a bill
UPON hearing this, Gordon told Duque: “Do not pass it on to us. You say you will look for savings [so that] you can cover both. In fact, the opinion rendered by the chairman of COA is towards a liberalizing opinion interpretation.”
“Are you now saying that we should draft a bill so that you can do it?” an irked Gordon asked Duque.
“That would be ideal, Mr. Chairman,” Duque responded.
Gordon then said, “I’m ready to file that bill but you said you’re going to do that [give the SRA to all HCWs in hospitals], so if you’re not going to do that, then we still have a problem, don’t we?”
“Meron po talaga [Yes, there would be],” Duque said, citing “legal basis.”
“The liberal interpretation cannot substitute for a legal basis…I really wanted to give it to them, if there are funds, I am willing to give them all the SRA. The problem is, COA will question us,” Duque stressed, speaking partly in Filipino.
However, Gordon assured him that if he will take the risk, “I am willing to file that bill right away as an emergency measure.”