The Senate Committee on Local Government conducted a public hearing on several bills seeking to create a Magna Carta for Barangays on Tuesday, March 21, 2023.
The said measures seek to recognize barangay officials as regular government employees, entitled to a variety of benefits and incentives, and establish local programs and mechanisms to assist barangays in fulfilling their autonomy and improving the welfare of their constituents.
Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito presided over the hearing and called on his colleagues to consider institutionalizing allowances and benefits for barangay volunteers, especially barangay health workers and barangay tanods.
Ejercito said barangay health workers and barangay tanods are overworked and underpaid despite being the country’s first line of defense against public emergencies.
“Dapat talaga natin mabigyan ng benepisyo yung ating mga foot soldiers: the barangay health workers and the barangay tanods. Sila naman talaga yung laging nauuna kapag may sakuna, may gulo, may pandemya. They are the most underpaid and overworked,” he said.
The lawmaker from San Juan stressed that barangay volunteers should be provided hazard pay, health insurance, and access to different medical services due to the risky nature of their work.
“Medyo ambitious but I think it’s about time that we give the proper benefits and privileges to these people. Nakita naman natin yung value nila, lalo na nitong pandemya, na lahat ay takot lumabas pero sila ay nandun pa rin, risking their lives and even their families para lang po makapagsilbi. It’s about time we compensate them properly,” he said.
He also urged the national government to study the feasibility of fixing a standard or minimum compensation package for barangay officials and volunteers.
“Sana magkaroon ng standardization or minimum at least, kasi iba-iba ang level ng mga barangay, na magkaroon naman ng disenteng allowance ang mga barangay volunteers,” he said.
Moreover, Senator Ejercito already filed Senate Bill No. 396, which seeks to protect barangay health workers, professionalize their services, and improve their incentives and benefits.
Once passed, every barangay health worker will be entitled to monthly honoraria in the amount of not less than P3,000; discounts from commercial establishments; hazard allowance; subsistence allowance; transportation allowance; one-time retirement cash incentive; training, education, and career enrichment programs; health benefits; insurance coverage; sick, vacation, and maternity leaves; cash gifts; disability benefits; civil service eligibility; free legal services; and preferential access to loan facilities.
Previously, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. recognizing the contributions of the country’s health workers pushed for the Magna Carta for Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) to greatly uplift their condition.
The magna carta for village health workers is one of the priority measures under the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) approved on the final reading at the House of Representatives on December 2022. (KSAA – PIA CPSD with information from OSJVE/ By Kate Shiene Austria)