'Nakakahiya talaga': Duque blames staff for delay in COVID-19 frontliners cash benefits

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 05 2020 09:26 AM | Updated as of Jun 05 2020 12:58 PM

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. file

MANILA (2ND UPDATE)-- Health Secretary Francisco Duque III blamed his staff for the delay in the release of the law-mandated benefits for health workers who died or were infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Duque, in a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City, said his staff at the Department of Health had no sense of urgency over the matter.

"Nakakahiya talaga, sir eh. Namatayan na nga tapos nagpaka wardy-wardy 'yung mga tao ko na parang walang sense of urgency," Duque said Thursday.

"Iyon ang talagang ang sama-sama po ng loob ko, Mr. President," he added.

The health chief assured the President that the health department could meet the June 9 deadline for the distribution of monetary benefits.

"We will comply, Mr. President, with your deadline," Duque said, noting that beneficiaries were already identified.

Following his remarks, Duque took to social media to acknowledge that the distribution of monetary benefits was part of his responsibilities as head of the health department.

"While I expressed disappointment towards some members of my team, I acknowledge that this is still my responsibility as SOH (Secretary of Health)," he said.

"I will make sure that we comply with the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, with proper documentation and identification of HCWs (healthcare workers)," he added.

Under Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, public and private health workers who contract severe COVID-19 infection while in the line of duty will receive a compensation of P100,000 and those who die “while fighting the COVID-19 pandemic” will be compensated with P1 million.

It was only on Thursday when the health department announced that it has approved the guidelines for the release of the monetary benefits.

To address the delay, the President ordered Duque to form a new team to take over the distribution of cash benefits.

"Now I am asking Sec. Duque to form a new team that would focus on the immediate delivery of the assistance that should be given to 'yung namatay at nagkasakit. I expect it within 24 hours," Duterte said.

“I’m sorry to drag you into this,” he told Duque.

There are currently 32 health workers — 4 nurses, 26 were doctors and 2 non-medical staff — who died due to COVID-19, the health department said.