PRESIDENT Duterte on Thursday afternoon underwent testing for the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) as a precautionary measure after he mingled with members of his Cabinet and other individuals who belatedly found out they were exposed to persons who have tested positive of the illness.
Sen. Christopher Go, the President’s long-time aide, said Duterte is not showing any signs of the illness and has no plans to undergo self-quarantine, for now.
Go also had himself tested at the Bahay Pangarap around 5 p.m. by members of the Research Institute for tropical Medicine (RITM). Results of the test will be available after 48 hours.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said the President and Go were tested for COVID-19 “to ensure that they are fit and healthy to perform their duties as government workers.”
“They are undertaking this preemptive step as per the advice of health officials given that they have regularly engaged with Cabinet officials, some of whom have opted to undergo self-quarantine as they were exposed to those infected with COVID-19,” Panelo said.
SENATORS IN ISOLATION
Senators Sherwin Gatchalian, Nancy Binay, Panfilo Lacson, Juan Edgardo Angara, Imee Marcos, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Francis Pangilinan, Ralph Recto and Francis Tolentino will not be available for public meetings in the next few days.
In a statement released Wednesday night, Gatchalian said although he is not showing signs of being ill, he has opted to go on self-quarantine after his interaction with a resource person who attended a hearing of the Senate committee on basic education last March 5.
“Though I am asymptomatic and feel healthy, I will follow government set protocols on such cases and go into self-quarantine immediately given that I interacted with the said individual during that committee hearing. I instructed all my staff to do the same especially those who had direct contact with the said person,” Gatchalian said.
Binay attended the hearing with Gatchalian and is likewise going into self-quarantine.
The 70-year-old committee resource person is the wife of the first Filipino COVID fatality in the country. He is now confined at a private hospital and is reportedly in stable condition.
The other senators decided to go on self-quarantine since they had close interactions with Gatchalian and Binay.
Zubiri expressed disappointment that some senators did not heed his call for them to cancel committee hearings while Congress is on recess.
Zubiri, during last Monday’s session, recommended to Sotto that they cancel all committee hearings scheduled for the week following the confirmation of the country’s first local transmission.
Gatchalian, Tolentino and Sen. Richard Gordon did not agree with Zubiri’s suggestion and pushed through with their hearings last Tuesday.
Tolentino tackled the updates on the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, Gatchalian on issues surrounding the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, and Gordon discussed with trade and industry officials the need to stockpile supplies in times of disasters and calamities.
Senate committees on Wednesday cancelled their respective scheduled hearings, but the Commission on Appointments continued with the confirmation of the promotion of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and Davao Rep. Isidro Ungab as colonels in the Army’s reserve force, the confirmation of 19 military officials and 12 foreign affairs officials.
Lacson said he decided to go on quarantine since he had shared the elevator inside the Senate building with Gatchalian early this week.
“I am doing self-quarantine while waiting for the result of his (Gatchalian’s) test. If he tests positive, I will have to undergo the test myself,” Lacson said.
Lacson also called on other senators who may have interacted with Gatchalian and Binay “to follow their lead and do self-quarantine for two weeks, as well, not only for our sake but for others.”
Sen. Joel Villanueva, whose mother passed away Tuesday afternoon, urged the public who may wish to visit his mother’s wake to “prioritize your personal health and safety” and forego attending his mother’s wake.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros refused to go on quarantine but said she will practice social distancing.
Sen. Ronald dela Rosa said does not see a need for self-quarantine since he is not exposed to the public these days as the Senate is in recess.
Several Cabinet members had volunteered to go on self-quarantine, among them Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Education Secretary Leonor Briones, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gov. Benjamin Diokno and Bases Conversion and Development Authority President Vince Dizon.
Medialdea, Dominguez and Tugade interacted last March 5 with a person who was later tested positive for COVID-19.
The identity of the person was withheld.
The three officials attended the inspection of the P6.5-billion C3-R10 section of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) Harbor Link project on March 5. The event was also attended by Duterte, Go and Villar.
Tugade confirmed he was exposed to the person during the NLEX Harbor Link Project inspection.
Dominguez on Wednesday night announced he will go on self-quarantine and said he interacted with a COVID positive person either Thursday or Friday last week. He said he has not attended events with the President or those held in Malacañang since the encounter.
Dominguez advised those that he had later met to decide if they too would undergo quarantine, including Assistant Secretary Antonio Joselito Lambino who briefed members of the Malacañang Press Corps last Wednesday on the impact of the virus on the country’s economy.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said in a separate statement that Pernia has gone on self-quarantine as a precautionary measure.
Avisado likewise went into self-quarantine. “Am on self-quarantine just for precautionary measure because I was exposed to Sec. (Carlos) Sonny Dominguez during our EDC (Economic Development Cluster) meeting last Tuesday March 10; and he had meeting with a person last Thursday, March 4, and Friday, March 5, respectively, who tested positive for COVID-19,” Avisado said.
Diokno has also decided to go on self-quarantine. “I understand the concern about the exposure to COVID-19 of government leaders. I am glad to share that I am well and not manifesting any symptoms, although I also decided to go on self-quarantine as a precautionary measure,” he said.
Education Undersecretary confirmed Briones is on quarantine but said the secretary is asymptotic but clarified that she no contact with the confirmed COVID patient who attend the Senate hearing. – With Angela Lorraine Celis, Raymond Africa, Victor Reyes, Jimmy Calapati, Myla Iglesia and Noel Talacay