Drilon to Duque: Don't blame hospitals, take responsibility for delay in health workers' benefits


Posted at Aug 19 2021 11:56 AM

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MANILA - Health Secretary Francisco Duque III should take responsibility for the delay in distributing benefits to health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic instead of passing the blame, Sen. Franklin Drilon said Thursday.

The Department of Health is the primary agency in the government's pandemic response and was given P77 billion for this specific purpose, yet 31 percent of these funds was left unobligated, said Drilon. Some P900 million for the health workers' benefits were also not spent, he said.

"For Sec. Duque to blame the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) for the delays or the hospitals, that’s totally passing the buck. He must assume full responsibility for this," he told ANC's Headstart.

In a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Duque said private hospitals are responsible for the delayed disbursement of benefits to their health care workers. DOH data showed that between September 2020 and June 2021, the agency has released nearly P15-billion worth of allowances and monetary benefits for 1.2 million medical workers.

But for Drilon, the DOH leadership should not point fingers "when the COVID-19 response is your primary responsibility" and instead work on finding solutions to this problem.

"I’m sorry to tell Sec. Duque that hindi dapat ganon. Do not point fingers. See what the problem is, see how it can be solved rather than pointing your finger at the hospital. The fact remains that our health workers have not been paid this special risk allowance etc," he said.

The Senate hearing on Wednesday and the investigation at the House of Representatives last Tuesday followed a report by the Commission on Audit that flagged the DOH's deficiencies in managing funds for COVID-19 response.

COA cited the agency's lack of documentation, purchases that were disadvantageous to government, and issuance of cash allowances, gift certificates, and grocery items among other things. It also noted the P11.89 billion that was unobligated.

Drilon said that while the audit report did not say it had evidence of corruption, "there’s certainly mismanagement that resulted in missed opportunities."

"They’re not saying that there is a deliberate, malicious effort to steal money, but certainly there was negligence, mismanagement which has resulted in our medical workers not getting what is due them under the law and for which money was appropriated," he said.

Health workers' unions have threatened a strike after many of them failed to receive their special risk allowances and meals, accommodation and transportation allowances, and other benefits. 

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