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Bill filed on benefits for barangay health workers

A BILL seeking to provide compensation and benefits package as well as security of tenure and free education for barangay health workers (BHWs) has been filed by the Makabayan bloc in Congress. House Bill 6562, if passed, will be known as the Barangay Health Workers Act of 2020. “BHWs are among the front-liners in primary health care especially now in the time of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019), as they provide assistance and support to physicians, dentists, nutritionists, public health nurses, and midwives. Their role is indispensable to community health and wellness,” Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Ferdinand R. Gaite said in a statement on Monday. The bill provides that each barangay should have its own BHWs. The number of assigned BHWs per barangay will be determined by the Department of Health (DoH). The measure also provides that a competency-based education and training curriculum for all BHWs will be developed by the DoH, in coordination with the University of the Philippines (UP). Funding for the benefits and incentives of BHWs will be sourced from the internal revenue allotment for local governments, the tobacco excise tax, and local government income from economic enterprises and local taxes. “They (BHWs) are volunteers that are risking life and limb to save others so it is high time the government reward their sacrifices with higher allowances and benefits,” Mr. Gaite said. — Genshen L. Espedido

Courts limit operations to ‘urgent matters’

THE SUPREME Court (SC) has ordered all courts nationwide to “drastically” reduce operations and attend only to “urgent matters” until April 15 to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus. Administrative Circular No. 31-2020 issued Monday directs courts to just maintain skeleton staff, suspend night courts, and observe office hours only from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be no work except in court and court offices dealing with resolution of urgent matters and cases, payments of salaries, release of 2019 Bar examination results, medical services, and security of courts. All hearings are suspended except on matters on bail and habeas corpus, promulgation of judgement on acquittals, reliefs of those arrested during the period. Filing deadline within this period is extended for 30 days starting April 16. The Judicial and Bar Council interview for the SC Associate Justice position to be vacated by Andres B. Reyes, Jr. who will retire on May 11, will also be reset. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

House to form ‘Defeat COVID-19’ committee

THE HOUSE of Representatives will create a “Defeat COVID-19” committee, which will serve as an advisory and coordinating panel to the government’s inter-agency task force on the the coronavirus disease 2019, House Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano said. In a live-streamed press briefing on Monday, Mr. Cayetano said the functions of the committee are to submit policy recommendations to departments and other relevant agencies, and to assist in communicating to the public factual and up to date information on the developments relating to the COVID-19 spread. The proposed committee will be composed of members from the committees on health, economic affairs, tourism, trade and industry, labor and employment, banks and financial intermediaries, public information, appropriations, ways and means, local government, and metro manila development. Mr. Cayetano also said that Congress is already coordinating with various departments on ways to fast-track government procurement processes. “We’re looking at all departments, ‘yung existing nilang pondo kung paano po ito makakatulong (their existing funds, on how these can help) during this time. We will make sure that strict procurement process is still followed,” he said. — Genshen L. Espedido

Former communist leader Salas granted bail

THE SUPREME Court has allowed a former communist leader to post bail over his 15 counts of murder charges. In a notice dated March 12, the court’s third division granted the petition of Jody S. Salas, son of former communist leader Rodolfo C. Salas, to allow his father to post a P200,000 bail before a regional trial court in Manila, unless he is being detained for other cases. Mr. Salas was arrested on Feb. 28 over murder charges in 2007. He is accused of being part of the cleansing of ranks of suspected enemies within the local and regional committees of the Communist Party of the Philippines. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas