BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
President Rodrigo Duterte is being called on to declare a national period of mourning starting next week to honor healthcare workers who died after contracting COVID-19 in the line of duty.
“This is the least that we can do to honor our healthcare workers who risked their safety to serve our nation in its darkest hour. They are modern-day heroes deserving our nation’s highest respect,” former Rep. Alfredo Benitez said yesterday.
In his call for President Duterte to declare a national period of mourning, Benitez said in a statement that flying the Philippine flag in all public offices at half-mast beginning August 17 until September 18 is a solemn act of recognizing the sacrifice of health care workers who continued to treat COVID-19 patients despite the risks.
The start of the month-long commemoration coincides with the week when the world marks the World Humanitarian Day on August 19.
As of August 9, records of the Department of Health show that 39 healthcare workers have died of COVID-19 nationwide, out of 5,551 who tested positive of the disease.
Among those who tested positive of the virus are 18 frontline healthcare workers in Negros Occidental, excluding Bacolod City.
Benitez also urged Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson and the Negros Occidental mayors to take the lead in commemorating the courage and selflessness of frontline healthcare workers and order the lowering of the Philippine flag to half-mast for one month, beginning August 17.
“We condole with the bereaved families of our fallen frontliners. Beyond this small gesture of solidarity, it is our responsibility to make sure that their deaths are not in vain. I call on each and every Filipino to act according to established health protocols to help turn the tide in this war,” he added.
The call of Benitez was echoed by his younger brother, Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez, who urged the mayors in the 3rd District of Negros Occidental to take the initiative and order the lowering of the Philippine flag at half-mast in all public institutions within their jurisdiction in honor of healthcare workers who succumbed to COVID-19.
“Healthcare workers have risked their lives to provide adequate healthcare to COVID-19 patients and address all our continuing health needs in the face of the global pandemic. Despite the threat to their health, they continue to fulfill their duty in our war against the virus. For this, we as a nation are eternally grateful for their service and sacrifice,” Rep. Benitez said.
The elder Benitez also expressed strong support to the call of healthcare workers to enhance the T3 (Testing, Tracing and Treatment) capacity to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.
“Increasing our T3 capacity will enable us to immediately identify and isolate carriers and break the chains of transmission. We also need to invest more in increasing our hospital’s surge capacity, from beds to augmentation in personnel, to ensure they are not overwhelmed in the event there is a sudden spike in cases,” Benitez said.*