Statement of the Commission on Human Rights in support of the proposed measure seeking benefits for disaster personnel death

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights in support of the proposed measure seeking benefits for disaster personnel death

The Commission on Human Rights supports Senate Bill No. 1354 (SB 1354), otherwise known as the Disaster Personnel Benefits Act, which seeks to institutionalize death benefits for community disaster personnel who are dispatched during calamities.

SB 1354 was introduced by Senator Mark Villar that aims “to properly compensate the families of rescuers who died during their deployment in responding to disasters”. While Senator Villar acknowledged that no amount of compensation would be sufficient for the families left behind, it is the responsibility of the State to recognize and provide just compensation for the bravery and sacrifices of these selfless individuals who died in the line of duty.

The Philippines is known to be included in the “Typhoon Belt” with approximately 20 cyclones entering the country annually and 5 of which are usually destructive ones. Our country is also situated in the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” which makes it vulnerable to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Such frequency of natural disasters greatly impact affected communities and families. As an example, the proposed bill cited the catastrophic event brought by Super Typhoon Karding on September 2022 that resulted in the tragic deaths of five rescuers in San Miguel, Bulacan. This, and many other recorded incidents of death in rescue operations, demonstrate the great risks that disaster personnel face while performing their duties in responding to disasters, calamities, and emergencies.

The Commission recognizes the need for rightful compensation to the families of fallen disaster personnel. This is in line with the right to security of workers, especially during periods of emergency and disasters when the families of disaster personnel are at risk of being pushed into disadvantageous situation. Such benefit is a form of concrete assurance and protection for the disaster personnel and their families. As stated in Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 626 or the Employees Compensation and State Insurance Fund, “The State shall promote and develop a tax-exempt employees’ compensation program whereby employees and their dependents, in the event of work-connected disability or death, may promptly secure adequate income benefit, and medical or related benefits.”

The proposed measure manifests the Senate’s continuing efforts in ensuring just compensation and dignified life for the family of rescuers who perish in the line of duty. It is also a concrete way to honor their heroism and dedication to the call of duty. At the same time, we stress the importance of ensuring that such deaths are prevented through the provision necessary equipment, training, and tools that will enhance the safety and welfare of our disaster personnel as enshrined in Section 13 of RA 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Reduction and Management Act.

The Commission underscores that having a proactive disaster preparedness response is still the best way to safeguard the lives of our disaster personnel in emergency operations in compliance with the State’s policy “to protect every worker against injury, sickness, or death through safe and healthy working conditions.” The discussion on resilience, disaster preparedness, and risk reduction all play a role in ensuring the well-being of the people and of the nation. ###