Locsin vows to fight deployment ban on health workers

Locsin vows to fight deployment ban on health workers
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr says the new policy violates the Constitution


MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr on Saturday, April 11, said he will fight the temporary ban on the deployment of health workers amid the coronavirus pandemic, calling the new policy an “abomination” and a violation of the Constitution.

Locsin expressed his objection to the new government policy in a series of tweets on Saturday, April 11. (READ: ‘Forced servitude’? PH prevents health workers from leaving)

“The fight is not over. We will fight the ban in the IATF. We will fight the ban in Cabinet. We will fight shit for brains. We will never surrender our constitutional right to travel and our contractual right to work where there is need for our work,” he said in a tweet.

Locsin had been tweeting since Friday, April 10, when immigration officials kept Filipino nurses working for the United Kingdom’s National Health Service from catching their flight at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, following Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Resolution No. 09 Series of 2020.  

“This violates the Constitution in 3 ways: right to travel, inviolability of contracts, punitive ex-post facto resolution,” Locsin said.

“BI Comm [ Commissioner Jaime] Morente powerless to help. I’m helping him. HELP!!!” added Locsin, who first questioned the new policy on Friday.

He said that according to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) representative at the POEA governing board “did not object to the resolution which made it unanimous.”

“Well I, as SECRETARY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, object to it and fill up the silence of the DFA representative. I REJECT THIS ABOMINATION,” the top Philippine diplomat said.

He said he wants the matter to be on the meeting agenda of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the coronavirus pandemic on Monday, April 13.

“I want this on the agenda of the IATF meeting on Monday. No discussion. Long discussions spread COVID-19 as we have seen even via teleconference. Just a raising of hands – for our people or against our people. Also no one talks who is not a Cabinet member,” Locsin said.

He said health workers bound for other countries should have been informed about the plan ahead of time.

“This ban shoulda been announced weeks before its effectivity date unless we wanted to round up our nurses before they can escape to their constitutionally protected jobs abroad. Ban cannot constitutionally apply to health workers with existing jobs abroad. Any lawyers wanna help?” Locsin said. 

Someone responded to Locsin’s tweet by saying that it was not the time to criticize the government and that Filipinos need to trust that their government was doing its “best” to help them amid the pandemic.

Locsin replied: “Yes! but when their BEST is not only not enough but detrimental to the public and hurtful to the most vulnerable – no I am not referring to f*%#ing Commie agitators – then speak out & fight – like that ban on our underpaid and abused nurses going back to their decent jobs abroad.”

In another tweet, Locsin said: “Here we banned our nurses leaving for existing jobs abroad and gave 0 hour notice. Why? Because the element of surprise in attacking an enemy is key to victory. Our enemy is our underpaid, overworked, thoroughly abused nurses who fled our country for decent paying jobs abroad.”

British Ambassador Daniel Bruce thanked Locsin and DFA Undersecretary Brigido Dulay via Twitter and said, “I do hope we can resolve this issue so that brilliant Filipino healthcare workers, already employed by the #NHS, can get back to the UK to carry on with their jobs.”

Nurses appealed for Locsin’s help, one of them saying he had served as a volunteer nurse when he graduated 10 years ago, and was about to get a chance to attain his dream of working abroad when the POEA implemented the policy.

“Working abroad is the only way for us nurses to have better income,” the nurse said on Twitter.

Kate Guina, a Filipino who works for the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom, also asked for Locsin’s help on Twitter. “This is against our rights. We have contracts and resident permit in the UK,” she said.

Nurses have started an online petition, emphasizing that most of them already have existing contracts and the deployment ban may affect their visa validity.

The POEA said in its resolution that the deployment ban aims to “prioritize human resource allocation” in the country’s healthcare system. (READ: DOH asks for volunteer health workers vs coronavirus, to be paid P500 a day)

Under the POEA resolution, health workers covered by the ban cannot be deployed “until the national state of emergency is lifted and until COVID-19-related travel restrictions are lifted at the destination country.” Negotiations of bilateral labor agreements for government-to-government deployment of healthcare workers have been suspended until the duration of the national state of emergency.

Covered in the ban are the following: medical doctors, nurses, microbiologists, molecular biologists, clinical analysts, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, X-ray/radiologic technicians, nursing assistant/nursing aides, operators of medical equipment, supervisor of health services and personal care, and medical-hospital equipment repairmen.

Duterte declared a state of public health emergency over the coronavirus outbreak on March 9.

The Philippines recorded 4,195 coronavirus cases, with 221 deaths and 140 recoveries as of Friday, April 10. Rappler.com

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