Eye Level Salen

LIKE A parent who plays favorites, President Duterte’s government continues to neglect the needs of healthcare workers and favor the military and police, his “errand boys.”

Medical workers may be at the front lines in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, but they are definitely at the back of the line in receiving benefits and proper compensation.

In November, healthcare workers from the Philippine General Hospital staged “Black Friday” protests, calling for the release of the promised Covid-19 hazard pay and special risk allowance made by the government six months ago.

Filipino Nurses United, a national organization of Filipino nurses, also held a protest in front of the Philippine Heart Center for the release of overdue wage increases and benefits pursuant to Republic Act No. 11466 or the Salary Standardization Law of 2019, which Duterte signed last January.

It was then revealed in a Senate hearing that as of Nov. 24, more than 16,000 medical front-liners from the public sector had yet to receive the hazard pay appropriated for them under the now-expired “Bayanihan to Heal as One” Act.

Medical professionals have worked hard while exposing themselves to Covid-19 risks and even death, yet they have remained uncompensated and undervalued for their services.

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has rolled out nearly P8-billion worth of year-end bonuses and cash gifts for policemen nationwide.

This is how Duterte fathers the country—by playing favorites. Unfortunately, the medical heroes on the front lines are not on the receiving end of his fatherly love.

“I need a healthy military and police kasi ‘pag magkasakit lahat ‘yan, wala na akong maasahan, wala na tayong mautusan kung gawin ‘to, gawin doon,” Duterte said in a televised address as he underscored the need for state forces to be vaccinated.

“Try to understand the police and the military. They are really the errand boys of the Republic,” he added.

Duterte’s fixation with state forces, which has been obvious from the beginning of his term, extended to the country’s anti-Covid response, so much that a public health crisis has become a national security issue, with military officers dominating the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, and the campaign becoming protracted—and very expensive—with no end in sight.

Even his Cabinet and Covid-19 task forces are predominantly composed of retired military men. The latest appointee was Carlito Galvez Jr., whom Duterte picked to oversee Covid-19 vaccine logistics and processes as vaccine czar.

The chief executive also made it clear that state forces would lead the vaccine operations with military camps serving as vaccine warehouses.

While Duterte assured that medical professionals were among those to be prioritized in the country’s vaccination program, it is downright improper and completely unwise to exclude health experts in spearheading the vaccine operations.

Sooner or later, Duterte’s heavy reliance on armed institutions will go wrong as a square peg will never fit a round hole.

The earlier he retires his obsession with the armed services and start crafting plans grounded on rational decisions, the sooner the country can put the pandemic behind it.

If Duterte does not quit playing favorites, it will no longer be a surprise if Filipinos end up with “daddy issues” by the time his term finishes.


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