Don’t leave them out!

April 08, 2020

If they who merely stand and watch also  serve, how far greater are the contributions of those little guys who do the dirty work of cleaning up after us?

Surely, they also need a vital lifeline.

And since the Duterte administration has vowed to leave  no one behind in eh wake of the 2019 coronavirus contagion, these outer frontliners should be on the government’s rescue roll.     

Garbage collectors, street sweepers, janitors and other workers involved in sanitizing our communities should be considered frontliners just as crucial as medical staff in the fight against COVID-19, Senator Imee Marcos said.

Thus, we lend our voice to the lady lawmaker’s call on the government to ensure financial aid like stipends, if not steady employment, for sanitation workers who have a clear role in reducing the spread of disease and are employed in hospitals, government offices, condominiums, super market and other business establishments.

"Huwag nating kalimutan ang mga basurero, street sweepers at mga janitor na tumutulong para labanan ang COVID-19. Buwis-buhay din ang kanilang ginagawang trabaho," Marcos said.

Anticipating that an ongoing lockdown in Luzon would be extended, she  filed Senate Bill 1414 to sustain frontliners as well as ordinary workers who may lose their jobs during the COVID-19 crisis.

The bill proposes to augment the government's P200-billion emergency budget with additional government funds and loans totalling P750 billion, specified in a program Marcos called Pag-ASA: Alaga, Sustento, Angat.

Marcos added that soldiers, policemen, immigration personnel, couriers and cargo handlers of crucial goods, and drivers of shuttle services for hospital staff should also be recognized as frontliners in the fight against COVID-19.

Meanwhile, another lawmaker called for a stop to the discrimination against our frontliners, COVID-19 positive, persons under monitoring  and persons under investigation and their families.

Sen. Sonny Angara issued the call after receiving reports that the acts of discrimination and even cruelty against the frontliners in the fight against COVID-19 continue in spite of repeated appeals for understanding and compassion for them.

"We must protect our health workers, all of our frontliners during this period of COVID-19. Every day they are risking their lives to care for all of those who are in need of medical attention. The challenges that they face today are overwhelming. For the sacrifices they are making to keep us safe and protected, I have nothing but respect for them," Angara said.

"On our part as policymakers, we should do our part by coming up with measures to protect them especially during this critical period. Acts of discrimination have no place in our society," he a added.

Angara urged all local councils to pass their respective ordinances prohibiting acts of discrimination against frontliners, PUIs, PUMs, and their families.

A number of cities have already passed such ordinances in response to reports of discrimination against the health workers in particular.

The local councils of Cebu City and Manila City have come out with their respective ordinances to protect frontliners from acts of discrimination. The ordinances carry fines and penalties against individuals and establishments who harass or deny service to frontliners.

Over the past weeks, numerous reports have come out about health workers being harassed, denied access to establishments such as supermarkets, and evicted from their rented homes due to the nature of their work.

In one case, a health worker in Sultan Kudarat was doused with bleach by assailants who believed he was a COVID-19 carrier.

"The Philippine National Police is already on the lookout for these acts of cruelty against our frontliners. Our local government units should also do its part by coming out with ordinances to protect them," Angara said.

At the start of the current Congress, Angara filed Senate Bill 137 or the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Act of 2019, which seeks to eliminate all forms of discrimination in the country.

Under the bill, as a general rule, discrimination based on these protected attributes: age, racial or ethnic origin, religious belief, political inclination or conviction, social class, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expressions, marital or relationship status, disability, HIV status, health status or medical history, language, physical features or other status, is prohibited.