MANILA – Malacañang on Wednesday said it respects the grievances aired by healthcare workers through protests to demand the release of their long-overdue benefits and the resignation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the 1987 Constitution gives all Filipinos the right to peacefully assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.
He also pointed out that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has already released over PHP300 million in funds for the special risk allowance (SRA) of healthcare workers.
“Karapatan po ng lahat ng mamamayan na iparating ang kanilang damdamin at siyempre po ‘yan ay protektado ng Saligang Batas. Pero yung ating tinatawag na special risk allowance, ‘yan po ay nai-release na (It is the right of every citizen to air their grievances and of course that is protected under the Constitution. But the special risk allowance has been released),” he said in a Palace press briefing.
Roque also acknowledged delays in the release of healthcare workers’ SRA, citing the late release of the list of names of healthcare workers in private hospitals.
“Nagkaroon po ng konting delay dahil nga dun sa pagsusumite ng mga pangalan sa hanay ng mga pribadong hospital kasi yung special risk allowance ay binigay po ng Kongreso sa lahat ng health workers, hindi lang po sa pang-gobyernong mga health workers (There were slight delays because of the submission of names by the private sector because this special risk allowance was given to all health workers, not just those working in government),” he added.
DBM Undersecretary Tina Rose Marie Canda confirmed that her agency has released last Aug. 25 the PHP311.79 million for the SRA of both public and private healthcare workers in the country.
“Tama si Spox na yung SRA, so far, ay naibigay na, nai-distribute na sa mga ospital. Yung actual grant nalang siguro dun sa mga taong entitled dito sa allowance na ‘to, yun ang hindi pa nagagawa (Spox is right that the SRA, so far, has been disbursed to hospitals. Perhaps it is the actual grant to those entitled that has not been done yet),” she said.
Meanwhile, Roque reiterated that the President is leaving it up to Duque to step down over criticism that the DOH failed to meet the deadline on the release of their Covid-19 benefits.
“Nasa kamay na po ni Secretary Duque kung siya’y magbibitiw. Kung siya’y magbibitiw, ang sabi ng Presidente tatanggapin niya (It’s in Secretary Duque’s hands whether he’s going to step down. If he decides to resign, the President said he will accept it),” he said.
He said Duterte is also standing pat on his decision to keep Duque, insisting that he “did nothing wrong.”
“Kung ang gusto ng ilang kanyang mga kritiko ay i-fire si Secretary Duque, sa mata niya, wala pong masamang ginagawa si Secretary Duque pero kung ninanais ni Secretary na bumitiw (If his critics want him to fire Secretary Duque, in his eyes, Secretary Duque did nothing wrong but if he wants to step down), he will honor and respect that decision,” he added.
On Wednesday, frontline healthcare personnel picketed outside the DOH compound in Manila and outside their own offices to call for the release of their hazard pay and other allowances.
They said the SRA released was not enough to compensate the 1.8 million healthcare workers in the country. (PNA)