Salute the country’s modern-day heroes

Like most of us, I grew up being taught about the heroes that laid down their lives for our country’s independence. Enslaved in their own country, our forefathers had given their blood, sweat and tears fighting for the freedom that we all enjoy now.

As a child, to be a hero, we thought one must sacrifice one’s life or make such an incredible contribution as to leave an indelible mark in our history.

In the modern world we now live in, freedom is not always about being free from foreign powers. These days, it may also mean freedom from sickness, freedom from poverty, freedom from neglect and freedom from indifference, among others.

Thus, as the nation remembers those who fought to secure the nation’s liberty this National Heroes’ Day, let us also salute all our brave Filipinos who join us in our fight not only against the pandemic, but also against the many challenges that continue to beset our nation.

In due recognition of our modern-day heroes, I also continue to push for measures that will advance their welfare and protect their rights.

As chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health, I fought hard to help ensure that our health care workers receive the compensation and benefits they deserve as they continue their life-saving work.

In 2019, I was instrumental in the enactment of Salary Standardization Law 5. As author and co-sponsor, the measure gives all civilian government employees, including nurses, increased salaries broken down in tranches.

I had also strongly supported the passage of Bayanihan 1 and 2, which allowed the government to better address the challenges caused by the pandemic and maximize available resources to aid low-income households and the health care sector, as well as inject needed support to the economy.

Furthermore, I authored and co-sponsored Republic Act 11712, which provides for benefits and allowances to public and private health care workers during the state of a public health emergency. Up to this day, I continue to urge concerned agencies to ensure no delays in the provision of what are due to them.

Meanwhile, let us hail all our talented athletes who not only bring honor and glory to our country, but also provide much-needed inspiration to our people, especially during these challenging times.

As head of the Senate Committee on Sports, I worked hard to look after our athletes’ welfare. At the height of the pandemic, I urged concerned agencies to help athletes whose training and livelihood had been hampered by the restrictions, leading to the provision of financial assistance and other aid to athletes across the country.

I also authored and co-sponsored RA 11470, establishing the National Academy of Sports, which is a government-run academy aimed at developing the country’s future athletes by offering quality secondary education with a special curriculum on sports for gifted young Filipinos.

This 19th Congress, I introduced the Philippine National Games Bill to ensure a more inclusive system of promoting promising Filipino athletes who possess potential in every field of sports.

My sports advocacy not only aims to give our athletes an equal opportunity of becoming future contenders in international sporting competitions and cementing the country’s status as a “Sports Powerhouse in Asia,” but also to help our youth stay away from illegal drugs and other vices.

Finally, to assist our overseas Filipino workers who brave the loneliness and danger of toiling in a foreign country away from their families, I authored and co-sponsored RA 11641, creating the Department of Migrant Workers to improve coordination among agencies dealing with the concerns of Filipino migrant workers.

Earlier, I had also successfully appealed to the government to include overseas workers, including seafarers, in the priority list for Covid-19 vaccination rollout. My subsequent recommendation to allocate specific brands of vaccines that are acceptable in the seafarers’ countries of destination or ports of entry was likewise approved.

Just recently, I filed SBN 1191 to provide for a Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers. Filipino seafarers remittances have been genuinely beneficial to the Philippine economy. In fact, they contributed around 21 percent of the total OFW remittances in 2021.

We also cannot forget our struggling Filipinos who nevertheless continue to brave each day amid these uncertain times. For me, they are heroes, too. To give them a boost, my office continues to provide support, such as relief operations, held last week.

We brought immediate help to fire victims, including 20 families in Cebu City; 17 in Paco, Manila City; 205 in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay; six in San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan; and five in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental.

We also provided aid to 1,000 victims of typhoon “Odette” in Bais City, Negros Oriental.

In addition, we mounted relief operations for indigent residents across the country, including 400 in Caloocan City; 1,666 in San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan; 1,000 in Arayat, Pampanga; 1,000 in Nasugbu, Batangas; 1,000 in Bais City, Negros Oriental; 734 in Pila, Laguna; 666 in San Jose, Batangas; 1,000 in Moncada, Tarlac; and 333 more in Lopez, Quezon.

To help them continue their small businesses, we also supported 228 microentrepreneurs in Jamindan, Capiz.

Let this National Heroes’ Day be also a time for us to give ourselves a pat on the back. The efforts that it took for us to survive to this day amid these challenging times are nothing short of heroic. By continuing to do our part in fulfilling our respective duties in our communities and inspired by heroes who fought for what we have now, we too can be heroes of one another.

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