MANILA — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Tuesday he was clueless about a memorandum suspending the grant of a special risk allowance (SRA) to health frontliners at the forefront of the pandemic, even as it bore his office's letterhead.
During the Senate's inquiry into alleged corruption at the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth), Sen. Risa Hontiveros confronted Duque over Department Memorandum 2020-0285 issued last June 23, which ordered the suspension of providing SRA to public health workers.
"The nurse who brought this to my attention already has COVID-19, [who] has been on duty taking care of Filipinos sa gitna ng (in the middle of the) pandemic," Hontiveros said.
But Duque could not provide an answer as to why his office suspended the special pay.
"I will certainly address this expeditiously. It was not clear to me why this was suspended by Undersecretary Roger Tong-an," Duque said.
Duque was referring to Health undersecretary Roger Tong-an, who was the signatory of the memorandum.
But Hontiveros questioned Duque's response, as she pointed out that the order came from his office.
"It's your Office of the Secretary letterhead. Letterhead po ninyo. Yes pumirma si Usec. Tong-an but by authority of the Secretary of Health kaya sa inyo ko po dinadala ito for the sake of our frontliners na dapat lang namang may SRA now," Hontiveros.
(It was on your letterhead. Yes, Usec. Tong-An signed but by authority of the Secretary of Health that's why I am bringing this to your attention for the sake of frontliners who deserve to have an SRA now.)
Hontiveros then pleaded that the memorandum be revoked, and Duque said he would act on it "in an hour."
The grant of SRA originated from Administrative Order No. 28 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last April 6.
Under the order, public health frontliners would get at most a quarter of their basic pay as a one-time special risk allowance on top of their hazard pay.
It was not clear, however, if eligible frontliners were able to receive their SRA when Department Memorandum 2020-0285 was issued 2 months later.