MANILA – A party-list lawmaker on Friday appealed for due process and defense of primary health care following the dismissal of at least 80,000 barangay health workers (BHWs) in various parts of the country in the wake of the 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE).
BHW party-list Rep. Angelica Natasha Co said the dismissal of over 80,000 BHWs by some of the newly elected barangay officials has severely undermined the delivery of primary health care in thousands of villages.
Co noted that joint memorandum circular (JMC) 2023-001 signed by the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), which ensures the security of tenure of barangay health workers, was disregarded.
"Their dismissal was without due process and completely disregarded the joint memorandum circular between the DOH and DILG seeking to preserve and ensure the continued role of the BHWs in primary health care delivery," Co said. "BHW Party-list vehemently objects to the dismissal of the BHWs by their barangay chairpersons."
Co said she has already talked with DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos about the BHWs' concerns, expressing hope that they will be accorded due process and compassion.
She said the dismissal also "laid to waste" the hundreds of millions of pesos in public funds invested in the specialized training of the dismissed BHWs received over the years so they could capably serve citizens.
"It would be a gross waste of hundreds of millions of pesos of public funds spent on BHW training to start from zero by training tens of thousands of new BHWs who have no training and experience in primary health care," she said.
She said the BHW Party-list will evaluate its legal options, including possible administrative and criminal proceedings.
She said they would also consider seeking the legal opinion of the Department of Justice on the issue.
"There are over 200,000 BHWs nationwide. At least 80,000 have been dismissed already, and as of writing, we have been receiving more reports of BHWs getting dismissed unjustly by newly elected barangay officials,” she said.
Co earlier said the JMC is the protection of BHWs against politically motivated and unjust removal from their posts by barangay chairpersons who were elected on Oct. 30.
The JMC aims to “ensure uninterrupted delivery of primary care services to the community", Co said.
The JMC provides that “voluntary basic health services” rendered by BHW shall be retained, “unless otherwise, their performance is unsatisfactory as deliberated within the local health board.” (PNA)