In commemoration of World Health Day, Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday urged local government officials to pass and implement measures to better protect health workers and other frontliners from discrimination.
“There is no health without health workers. They and other frontliners are heroes and should be treated with respect and compassion, not hate and suspicion,” the Senator said during the third week of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus disease or COVID-19.
“Hindi katanggap-tanggap na ang ating mga frontliners na lubos na nagsasakripisyo para iligtas ang buhay ng ating mga kababayan ay nagiging biktima pa ng diskriminasyon mula mismo sa kanilang mga komunidad,” Hontiveros said as she recommended that local government units (LGUs) pass ordinances against the incidence of health workers being denied entry into their communities or places of residence by neighbors, dormitory or apartment owners, and even barangay officials.
“An anti-discrimination ordinance for the protection of health workers and other frontliners in the time of COVID-19 should establish clear mechanisms for the reporting and redress of grievances,” the Senator urged. “This measure should also penalize acts of discrimination in order to fully support our health workers and other frontliners in the conduct of their duty,” she remarked.
Anti-discrimination ordinances for health workers are already being implemented in Manila, Parañaque, and Iloilo City, while similar ordinances are being deliberated by other LGUs. The Senator maintained that ordinances will be one of the most effective and expedient ways to address the problem. “Mabilis na tugon at may pangil ang ordinansa para matigil ang problemang ito,” Hontiveros said.
But the Senator committed that she will file a bill penalizing acts of violence and discrimination against health workers and frontliners, once the Senate session resumes in May. She will file the measure as an amendment to the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Concern Act or Republic Act. No. 11332.
Hontiveros also expressed concern about the recent spate of violent acts against health workers due to COVID-related fears, including that of an ambulance driver who was shot in Quezon province, and a health worker who was attacked in Sultan Kudarat.
“It’s alarming and unacceptable. We should work towards eliminating future violent incidents against health workers,” Hontiveros said. “All levels of government should work together to ensure that our frontliners can perform their noble duties, free from violence or discrimination by misinformed or hysterical individuals,” she added.
Hontiveros also urged the Department of Health to invest in information campaigns that will dispel rumors and fake news regarding COVID-19, especially those that put the safety of health workers at risk. She likewise encouraged LGUs to follow recommendations set by the Department of Interior and Local Government to better protect frontliners, such as deploying more law enforcement agents in the vicinity of hospitals, providing free transport to health workers, and keeping streets leading to medical facilities well-lit.
“Hindi sapat ang ating pasasalamat sa ating mga frontliners kung hahayaan lang natin silang masaktan o maabuso. Let us repay the hard work and selflessness of Filipinos fighting the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring that they are safe and welcome in our communities,” she concluded./Stacy Ang