SPECIAL NEWS FEATURE:
Spare the Barangay Frontliners of your outrage and dissatisfaction as much as you can, for they too need your compassion and understanding.
The barangay health workers (BHW), barangay nutrition scholars (BNS), day care center workers, lupon tagapamayapa, drivers, tanods, garbage collectors, street sweepers and other barangay field and office staff are considered the lowest paid employees in government. Their work demands so much time and effort, but their contribution is integral to the function of barangay governance, without them, barangay government is helpless and useless.
At the onset of the Covid 19 contagion in the country, these barangay workers were immediately mobilized by the national and local government. They composed the Barangay Health Emergency Response Team (BHERT) who acted as our first line of defense against coronavirus, they are responsible for tracking persons with history of foreign travel, identifying persons under monitoring (PUMs) and persons under investigation (PUIs), monitoring them on a daily basis and taking their vital signs at least three times a day. Their day to day and house to house monitoring makes them the most vulnerable victims to the dreaded coronavirus. Their only protection are worn-out facial masks, recycled gloves and limited supply of rubbing alcohol which they sparingly
use to wash their hands.
These same barangay frontliners who are the frequent targets of verbal abuses, social media attacks, and other forms of prejudice, are the same persons who were sent to your homes to do the house to house profiling. For instance, in Barangay Carmen this city where there are over 15,000 households, these barangay workers were deployed to get your Disaster Assistance Family Access Card (DAFAC) listed, this is used as the basis for the relief allocation to the 80 barangays by the City Social Welfare Development Office (CSWD).
Through Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan, To Heal as One Law, President Duterte ordered the lifting of the 30% cap on Quick Response Fund which allowed the utilization of the Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund (LDRRMF) that moved many barangays to go on massive relief actions. Once more, these same barangay frontliners were the ones who packed these relief goods consisting of rice, noodles, canned goods and other essential items; and they too are the ones delivering these goods to you house to house.
In Barangay Macasandig, PB Aaron M. Neri Sr. is clear and forthright, “no household must be left out regardless of social class.” This meant, that our Barangay Frontliners have to deliver the Barangay Food Assistance to every household including those who were not listed in the DAFAC, to over 6,000 families.
When the CSWD finally released the city government’s relief assistance through the barangays, each consisting of 5 kilos of rice and 11 pieces of assorted canned goods, our barangay frontliners have to go back house to house to deliver them to you. (This was known to many as the second wave of food assistance). During the last weekend and until this time, these same frontliners have been going back to you to deliver the Barangay Exit Pass (BEP) pursuant to the City Mayor’s Executive Order No. 62. I am almost certain that once the Social Amelioration Program of the DSWD will be rolled out, these same barangay frontliners will be tapped to assist in the distribution of these subsidies, house to house once again. Can you imagine our
barangay workers divided in three to four teams, visiting on foot the 6,000 households spread throughout the 1,189.9 hectares of Barangay Macasandig just so you can get out of your house (BEP)?
And just so, you will know how insignificant these barangay workers are receiving: the barangay tanods who secure your homes during the wee hours of the night are given a measly ₱ 2,500.00 to ₱ 5,000.00 a month; the garbage collectors who gather your trash as early as five in the morning gets ₱ 5,000.00 to ₱ 7,000.00; and the street sweepers, the barangay health workers and barangay nutrition scholars receive no more than ₱3,000.00 as monthly honoraria. Many of them don’t have social security or health insurance; no retirement plan to look forward to in their old age; and no security of tenure to protect them from losing their jobs.
Lately, our barangay frontliners have been given by the city government a one-time hazard allowance of One Thousand Pesos (₱ 1,000.00). “Kana lang man gani, lukso na sila sa kalipay.” By way of a disclaimer, this article are my personal views and I have not been motivated by any complaint from any barangay frontliner. The truth is, I have not heard of any. But rather, I am moved by my personal observations like the rude and ungrateful behavior of some people in the community who treat these workers with little respect. Some even went as far as criticizing them on social media.
These Barangay workers are as susceptible to Covid19 as any of our hospital or medical frontliners, but are they entitled to the same compensation accorded to them by Republic Act No. 11469? Will they get ₱ 100,000.00 if they contract severe Covid19 infection? Or ₱1,000,000.00 if they die fighting the pandemic? I can only hope so. Our barangay frontliners belong to one of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged sectors of our society, and no doubt, they have sacrificed so much for us.
My only appeal is that the next time your barangay frontliner will go back to you in your home, the least you can give back is your smile and a glass of drinking water.