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Health workers upset on unspent Bayanihan 2 funds with benefits still unreleased

An alliance of medical frontline workers on Tuesday took issue with P18 billion with the unspent Bayanihan 2 law funds as their requested benefits remained unreleased.

In a statement, Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) said government hospitals requested the Department of Health for the release of funds for their meals, accommodation and transportation allowance.

However, AHW said DOH replied that “the funds which you returned to this Department were already repurposed for COVID-19 related activities or responses such as hiring of additional emergency HRH, vaccination program and compensation benefits of health workers who contracted with COVID-19 infection.”

Cristy Donguines, chief of Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center Employees Union-Alliance of Health Workers, said the health department allegedly deceived them for failing to give health workers their "hard earned benefits. "

“They callously kept their silence while we were hopping from DOH, DBM to Office of the President to demand our much deserve benefits. But because of our strong determination and collective efforts, the dialogue we had in June 2, 2021 with DBM and DOH led us know the truth," Donguines said.

"DOH was forced to reveal that they had utilized the funds intended for our meal, accommodation and transportation benefit for other purposes.  Clearly, DOH deceived, deprived and confused us," Donguines added.

Robert Mendoza, AHW national president, urged the government to release health workers benefits before the expiration of Bayanihan Law.

"We will not stop and never get tired of fighting until we get the living wage, just benefits, rights and welfare we deserve. Lastly, we call on the attention of (Health) Secretary (Francisco) Duque (III), to shape up and defend the health workers’ rights and welfare," said Mendoza.

Earlier, health workers from public hospitals in Metro Manila held a "noise barrage and die-in protest" in front of the DOH gate to demand for the release of their benefits.

In a previous media briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire assured health workers that they will receive their allowances in cash, after the allotment was "repurposed" to other COVID-19-related responses.

"I want to assure our healthcare workers that we are looking for the fund sources and this will be given to you in cash. We ask for your patience," Vergeire said in Filipino. -- Consuelo Marquez/BAP, GMA News