In a tribute to frontliners slammed as ’empty,’ Lapu-Lapu city hall doused with blood-colored water

June 18, 2020 - 1:14 PM
Lapu Lapu City Hall
Water with red dye doused at the grounds of Lapu-Lapu City Hall in its 59th Charter Day Celebration on June 17, 2020. (Photo from The Freeman/Joy Torrejos)

Some Filipinos clamored for COVID-19 frontliners to be “properly honored” after the Lapu-Lapu City Hall in Central Visayas drenched its grounds with blood-colored water as part of its tribute to people working in the frontlines of the pandemic.

Reports said that the city celebrated its 59th Charter Day on Wednesday and the local government unit highlighted the frontline workers and COVID-19 survivors during its commemoration.

The event was attended by city officials, personnel of the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, the city health and fire department personnel, Lapu-Lapu City Hospital staff and some of the city’s COVID-19 survivors.

A short awarding ceremony took place and the city hall grounds were sprayed with red-colored water as an attempt to honor the frontliners’ bravery. Red is usually associated with courage and bravery.

Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan also listed the names all of the city’s frontliners who are part of its fight against the virus in a Facebook post.

While the water-spraying gesture was meant to pay tribute, it was not well-received by some Twitter users who called for more substantial means to honor those in the medical field, the primary frontliners of the pandemic.

Columnist and blogger Tonyo Cruz pointed out that healthcare workers needed to be honored in other ways such as raising their income, providing them with allowance, prioritizing them in COVID-19 tests, ensuring their lodging and transportation and regularizing them as employees.

“No to empty PR (public relations) stunts,” he added.

Another Twitter user said that the money used for the red dye could’ve been “used to pay the frontliners” instead.

“Our frontliners don’t need these cheezy tributes. What they need is proper compensation for their sacrifices: INCREASE PAY/HAZARD PAY, COMPLETE SET OF PPE’s (personal protective equipment), RESPECT,” wrote another online user.

An online user likewise said that a better way to pay them tribute during the time of the pandemic is to help them in terms of contact tracing which she described as “actual interventions that help prevent the spread of infection.”

Lapu-Lapu is one of the cities that earlier proposed an ordinance that protects medical frontliners from discrimination. It also aims to protect individuals infected with COVID-19, as well as those who are labeled “suspected cases.”

The city also gives its frontliners a hazard pay of P500 per day. City councilor Rico Amores said that a frontliner who works five days a week for a month “can get P12,000.”

Glimpse at issues involving frontliners 

The clamor for medical frontliners’ better treatment comes at a time when healthcare workers who have died fighting COVID-19 were not given the mandated compensation in a timely manner.

Similar complaints were reported by those who have severely contracted COVID-19.

Under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, families of a dead frontliner shall receive P1 million while those who were infected are supposed to be compensated P100,000.

The Department of Health was previously condemned for delaying the cash assistance, which prompted some Filipinos to once again call for its chief, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III’s resignation. 

The agency was also accused of failing to secure sufficient PPE suits for some of its workers in the first months of the pandemic, as well as providing transportation and proper lodging.

Such instances have prompted the Office of the Ombudsman to probe Duque and other DOH officials over the “possible inefficiency or irregularities in, among other things, getting protective equipment for medical frontliners,” according to reports.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires said that the DOH is being investigated for the following:

  • Delayed procurement of PPE suits and other medial gears for healthcare workers
  • Alleged lapses and irregularities that led to the death of health workers and rising deaths and infections among medical frontliners
  • Inaction in the release and processing of compensation for healthcare workers who were severely ill with COVID-19 and who died
  • Confusing and delayed reporting of COVID-19 deaths and confirmed cases

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire admitted that the probe has affected the morale of their personnel but added that they will continue to work as part of their mandate.