All members of the ruling party PDP-Laban were asked to undergo self-quarantine after being exposed to Senator Aquilino Pimentel III during a March 4 meeting at Senator Manny Pacquiao’s house, Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said Friday.
The congressman, however, said they believed the senator was not yet infected with COVID-19 at the time of the meeting, and that the party was not inclined to sanction him despite his violation of quarantine protocols.
The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine said ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap “remains negative” for COVID-19, saying his earlier positive test results were due to an “encoding error.”
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Pimentel drew a firestorm of criticism after he accompanied his pregnant wife to Makati Medical Center (MMC), even though he was supposed to be on self-quarantine and was awaiting the results of a test for the highly contagious novel coronavirus or COVID-19.
Pimentel, who was already then a person under monitoring (PUM) for the virus, said he learned he tested positive Tuesday night when he was already inside MMC.
The hospital later denounced Pimentel’s actions as irresponsible and reckless, saying he endangered medical staff and other patients at MMC. Those who had come in contact with the senator would also have to undergo quarantine, the hospital said, depriving them of much-needed manpower to deal with the pandemic.
A group of lawyers led by Rico Quicho, the former dean of the University of Makati School of Law, said Pimentel should be held liable for breaking the law and endangering the lives of medical workers and other people at the MMC.
Pimentel vowed to reply to the charges to be filed against him.
“I will respond to their specific allegations in due time after we read them and compare (with) what (is in the) law,” Pimentel told reporters in a Viber message on Friday.
“We (are in) an entirely new environment where everything is (in) a state of flux. I believe even the so-called protocols have changed over time. Everything will be clarified in due time,” he added.
Senator Richard Gordon appealed for public understanding over Pimentel’s breach of quarantine protocols.
“Now is not the time to blame. I think he already apologized to the people. You know he just got married and his wife will gave birth through caesarian operation,” Gordon added.
“I know Koko,” he said in Filipino, referring to Pimentel by his nickname. “He’s a good person and is not abusive. Let’s not pick on him.”
He acknowledged, however, that Pimentel erred and that like many other people who might have the symptoms, he was moving around.
He agreed, too, that as a senator, Pimentel should set an example.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III agreed with MMC that Pimentel breached quarantine protocols for persons under monitoring for COVID-19.
“We agree that there was breach of quarantine protocol and this should not have happened,” Duque said in Filipino during an online press conference Thursday.
Duque urged PUMs and patients under investigation (PUIs) to strictly follow the home quarantine protocol and cooperate with government’s efforts to contain the outbreak.
“I call on everyone. We’re all in a critical situation especially the PUIs and PUMs and let’s stay at home,” he said.
Duque denied reports that he called the MMC asking them as a favor to admit Pimentel’s wife who was about to give birth.
“I didn’t contact MMC to request them to accommodate the wife of Senator Koko Pimentel,” Duque said.
He also said there was no VIP treatment in COVID-19 testing.
In other developments:
• Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte proposed that the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) scale up its case rate packages from the current P4,000 to P32,000 per beneficiary to a range of P150,000 to as much as P400,000 for each treated patient afflicted with COVID-19.
• Davao City 1st District Rep. Paolo Duterte on Friday offered a pubic apology for his son Omar, who disobeyed anti-COVID-19 measures at a supermarket in the city. “It has come to my attention that my son, Omar Duterte, went to S&R (Membership Shopping) Davao and he did not line up to conduct the stringent screening requirements of the establishment,” Duterte said in a statement. “It is with humility that I apologize for the behavior of Omar and his impertinence shall be dealt with accordingly.” The congressman, the President’s son, said the alleged misconduct of Omar’s security team would also be investigated. In a Facebook post, Omar also admitted he made a mistake and apologized.
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