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I have been harping about discrimination against medical frontliners and yesterday, an appeal came from Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran to stop discriminating call center agents following the death of an employee from a BPO company here.

I have been harping about discrimination against medical frontliners and yesterday, an appeal came from Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran to stop discriminating call center agents following the death of an employee from a BPO company here.

In Iloilo City, I’ve seen some bashing after Mayor Jerry Treñas announced a localized containment for two BPO companies, IQOR and WNS, with the latter recording one death.

Iloilo has declared a 50 percent operation for BPOs, encouraging work at home, to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 even before reports came out that 99 call center agents tested positive of the coronavirus just over the weekend.

Furthermore, agents from those centers will only be allowed to report for work if they have negative RT-PCR results. I am not sure who is shouldering the cost of testing but I guess the company will have to cover for it and won’t pass it on to agents as cost of testing is steep.

Protocol dictates that we have to protect the privacy of patients and those who passed away due to COVID-19 because of exactly that – discrimination.

So was Treñas wrong in publicly citing these BPO companies that were placed on localized lockdown? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Depending on how you view the information that was released.

Here, authorities did not release which company had in their employ the deceased agent. However, social media is abuzz with it thus, despite no mention of the BPO, everybody already knew before the day ended.

We have our share of ignorant people despite months of advocacy about COVID-19 so when news came out that one death was traced to a BPO here, there were harsh comments about the industry. I guess this was because it was preceded by the news from Iloilo about the number of agents that tested positive.

For the nth time, people should understand that no one wants to be infected nor spread the virus to others. If they happen to acquire it for some reason, especially as we are now in a community transmission, we ought to respond accordingly by showing compassion, praying for their recovery and avoiding them so as to curb the spread.

When Mayor Jerry announced the names of the two BPO companies, I don’t think the intention was to discriminate workers from those companies but to inform the public that there is high infection rates in those places, thus they must avoid it for their own safety.
Of course there will always be negative comments about it, but the greater public appreciated what Mayor Jerry did as he ordered, not only those two companies, but all call centers in Iloilo City to disinfect after every shift.

I personally assure you that the BPO company involved here, although they did not make any public announcement about it, had their workers’ welfare in mind. One of my household member works for that company and was ordered not to report to work when news came out, until further notice.

However, I advised him to request to work-at-home or if not, ask the company to provide them accommodations if asked to report back. That is for the safety as well of our entire household especially as my granddaughter stays with me during weekdays for her online schooling.

We cannot overemphasize the contribution of the BPO industry in our local economy. However, as mandated, they have to take responsibility over their workforce and if need be, shoulder the cost of testing when they resume operations and yes, disinfect the workplace after every shift.

Mayor Jerry called for transparency among businesses in their locality as foremost on his mind is the welfare of the entire population of Iloilo. I think the same should be adapted here. It is not to discriminate the company, nor their workforce, but to properly inform the people and to help erase the stigma of COVID-19.

In other news, I would not assume to call it discrimination but others would, especially with the recent upheavals at the provincial government.

Yesterday I learned that the governor’s chief-of-staff, Jonathan Lobaton, handed his resignation. This came as a surprise since Jonathan also heads the provincial IATF. What is happening that would warrant his resignation especially since Jonathan has been with Gov. Bong Lacson from the time he was vice-governor?

I will not be surprised if that will lead again to just one person as too many incidents have been linked to that. What I am very much surprised though is why the governor remains unperturbed about all these.

Budget Officer Joy Salado and Mambukal Head, Ellen Jalandoni are back working after their suspensions were lifted. Both were reassigned to other departments which to me sounds a demotion as both were department and division heads already.

We also have yet to hear what the results of their investigations were, especially the one against Joy which has been lengthily discussed even in the previous administration. Joy, along with lawyers, Roxenne Sumanting and Ariel Cuaycong, opted to request for a hearing of their cases. I am not sure whether one happened at all. It will be interesting to know the findings and whether the call to suspend were even meritorious or not. Abangan!*


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October 2020