By GABRYELLE DUMALAG
MANILA—A public sector unions federation assailed the irregularities on the use of the pandemic response funds as reported by the Commission on Audit (COA) and demanded accountability over the rising number of deaths among public workers.
“There were a lot of deficiencies in the management of the P67.3 billion of pandemic funds of the Department of Health (DOH) and P11.9 billion were unspent last year. This shows a deplorable ineptness and dysfunction of the government response to COVID-19,” said Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) President Santiago Dasmariñas in an online press briefing on August 18.
State auditors reported various deficiencies amounting to P67.3 billion in the health department’s funds “intended for national efforts of combating the unprecedented scale of the COVID- 19 crisis.” DOH also had P11.89 billion of unused funds at the end of 2020.
As of April 2021, the Civil Service Commission disclosed that about 1,600 government personnel nationwide died of COVID-19.
“The unspent money was supposed to cover the hazard pay and special risk allowance of healthcare workers who are bearing the brunt of the pandemic fight. If these were given then it could have helped healthcare workers who–until now, have been complaining and some were even reported to take part in a mass resignation plan,” said Dasmariñas.
He added that the unspent funds should have been used for much-needed health supplies, equipment and services that could have benefitted not just health and other government workers but the general public as well.
Courage said that at the onset of the pandemic, they have called for free mass testing and treatment, provision of sufficient PPEs for frontliners, and rightful compensation of the health hazard faced by all public sector employees in the line of duty but were not met by the government.
The group said the P500 per day hazard pay during the enhanced community quarantine is but a token given the economic crisis that the country is in.
Social Welfare Employees’ Association of the Philippines President Allan Balaba said the hazard pay given was nowhere near enough as many government employees continue to get sick and die in the line of duty.
“The thousands of government employees infected and lost amid the pandemic are testaments to the poor provision of PPEs, and support from the Duterte Administration,” Courage said.
Dasmarinas said that President Rodrigo Duterte should make true of his promise during his campaign that he will fire those who had a “whiff of corruption.”
“The secretaries of the departments are the alter egos of the president. So, whatever they do or not do is a reflection of Malacanang,” said Dasmarinas.
He also called the president to address these problems instead of castigating state auditors for doing their jobs.
“This grievous betrayal of public trust can only be accounted to President Rodrigo Duterte and his trusted Health Secretary Francisco Duque, III – whom the former, in the face of the controversy, still obstinately defends.,” said Courage. (JJE, RVO)