Working and Healing as One

The Bayanihan Heal as One Act requires a whole of government approach. It demands coordination and strategic action from the entire executive branch. This is not a time for government officials to dilly dally and whine over criticisms hurled at their indecision and lack of action. Government must maintain its focus in the fight against COVID-19.

 

The “Bayanihan Heal As One” Act was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte on 25 March. The law effectively places the country under a state of national emergency and grants him special powers to address the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. He has reserved certain powers to himself and delegated other powers to different government officials and agencies through a memorandum issued by the Executive Secretary on 28 March 2020.

About P 275 Billion worth of public funds has been allocated in the COVID-19 response as part of the new law. On 31 March, the President stated that Php 200 Billion will be allotted for the government's social amelioration program to provide emergency support within a two-month period for low income households based on the regional minimum wage (range of P5,000-P8,000 per household). Furthermore, the Department of Health has also purchased Php 1.8 Billion worth of 1 million sets of personal protective equipment (PPE) to be given to health workers in referral hospitals for COVID-19 patients in Luzon.

 

Now that funds have been allocated, the pressing challenge is to properly administer these programs and ensure that the supposed beneficiaries are able to receive the much-needed assistance from the government.

 

Due to food distribution complaints attributed to nepotism and favoritism, the President has ordered the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to lead in the implementation of the Social Amelioration Program by utilizing the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) Distribution Network. However, DSWD spokesperson Irene Dumlao said in an interview on 30 March that DSWD will give out the social amelioration cards to LGUs, and LGUS will subsequently distribute these cards to barangay officials. The questions begs--- does DSWD truly have a 4Ps network independent from LGUs and barangays? Do they have their own foot soldiers to administer assistance to about 18 million low-income Filipino households? If none, what the President stated may be misleading.

 

On 30 March, the DOH has confirmed that it has placed orders for one million set of PPEs inclusive of head gear, goggles, N95 masks, gloves, apron, and gown, with deliveries anticipated between April 2 and 24. The challenge of DOH has always been its internal protocols and distribution process. Many hospitals continue to complain the lack of PPEs in catering to rising COVID-19 cases. Time is of the essence; hence the agency must work double time to ensure that medical equipment is provided immediately to our hospital workers.

 

Clearly, the President needs to put his foot down to ensure that designared government agencies do not pussyfoot and delay the services it ought to provide to our frontliners and vulnerable sectors.

 

The Bayanihan Heal as One Act requires a whole of government approach. It demands coordination and strategic action from the entire executive branch. This is not a time for government officials to dilly dally and whine over criticisms hurled at their indecision and lack of action. Government must maintain its focus in the fight against COVID-19.

 

At the end of the day, the nation needs to heal not only from COVID-19 but also from the political division that prevents the country from achieving its full development potential.

 

 

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About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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