Several senators expressed dismay on Tuesday after learning that not a single health worker affected with severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been able to receive the sickness and death benefit that was indicated in the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
"We're told that because there was no IRR (implementing rules and regulations), no one has been able to avail," Senator Sonny Angara said during the plenary session.
"It's really criminal, this neglect to pass this and to delay these types of benefits. We keep praising them as our heroes and yet it's merely lip service if we don't give them anything material," he added.
Section 4 (f) of the Bayanihan Law states that public and private health workers who would contract severe COVID-19 must receive a P100,000 compensation from the government. A death benefit of P1 million must also be provided to those who will die due to COVID-19 in line of their duty.
The provision has a retroactive application from February 1, 2020.
Senator Francis Pangilinan said the neglect of the grant of sickness and death benefits to the affected frontliners is "unacceptable and unforgivable."
"This is truly disappointing and truly indicative of the lack of compassion of whoever in the DOH is supposed to have addressed this with the IRR," he added.
Senator Richard Gordon underscored that 32 out of the over 2,600 infected health care workers in the country already succumbed to COVID-19 in line of duty.
Two out of the 1,172 active cases in the workforce are severely critical, he added.
"You don't need implementing rules and regulations here. The law is very clear. They have already died, a little investigation would tell us that you can pay them because they died while on the frontline. That's a no-brainer," Gordon said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson agreed that the lack of IRR should not be used to justify the inaction.
"The lack or absence of the IRR should not be an excuse not to comply with the law," he said.
Angara said the Senate could write a letter to the concerned agencies to fast-track the implementation of the said provision.
"We will do what we can to nudge them in the right direction," he said. -MDM, GMA News