Manila Bulletin

Senate hearing to focus on delayed benefits of health workers — Gordon


The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee will look into the complaints on the Department of Health's (DOH) delayed release of allowances and other benefits for health workers this week.

Senator Richard Gordon, in a radio interview, clarified that he will prioritize the issue on health workers' benefits while waiting for the DOH to explain to state

auditors its reported deficienci­es in spending COVID-19 response funds.

"'Yong COVID-19 allowances na nakatakda para sa nurses, sa mga frontliner­s ay bakit 'di nabibigay (Why are the COVID-19 allowances of our nurses, health frontliner­s still not released)?" Gordon told radio DWIZ.

"So 'yun ang titignan kong maigi, 'yon ang tatanungin ko sa kanila (that's what I will look into, that's what I will ask them)," he added, saying he already sent an invitation to DOH officials informing them of the scope of the Senate inquiry "for the moment."

Based on the schedule posted in the Senate's website, the hearing set for Wednesday, August 18, will be a "motu proprio investigat­ion" on the Commission on Audit's (COA) 2020 report on the DOH and other issues related to the agency's use of funds during the pandemic.

The COA had earlier released a report flagging the "various deficienci­es" of the DOH in handling some P67.32 billion fund for COVID-19 response, ranging from non-compliance with pertinent laws, low utilizatio­n or use of funds not for its intended purposes, to questionab­le procuremen­ts.

Gordon said he will wait for the COA to complete its report on the DOH before pressing officials to explain on the deficienci­es.

"Huwag natin unahan ang COA (Let's not preempt the COA)," he added.

"Ang inaalala ko yong 'di tayo mawawalan ng frontliner­s na aalis dahil nahihirapa­n, napapagod na, nae-expose na sa sakit, tapos hindi pa babayaran. 'Yon ang unang aatupagin namin sa Miyerkules (We should not let our frontliner­s leave because they are suffering, or exhausted, exposed to disease, and yet are still unpaid. That's what we will focus on, on Wednesday)," Gordon said.

Still, Gordon said he believes that the DOH, specifical­ly its chief, Secretary Francisco Duque III, should be responsibl­e for any failure or mishandlin­g of COVID-19 funds, especially in compensati­ng health workers.

"Definitely. You commit a crime on anti-graft. Kapag ikaw ang gagawa dapat hindi mo ginawa, tinago mo 'yong pera, ninakaw mo o 'di kaya nasa iyo na 'yong pera, hindi mo ginawa, nagkaroon ng damage 'yong mga tao. Negligent ka o pabaya ka, may kasalanan ka (If you were given a task but did not do it, kept the funds or stole it, or when you were given the money but did not disburse it, there is damage to the people. You are negligent and irresponsi­ble, you are at fault)," said Gordon.

"Parang graft and corruption yan, eh (It's like graft and corruption)," he pointed out.

Gordon said Duque has committed to him that he will attend the hearing to explain "all of it (issues)."

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