Sense of entitlement of House members

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    `But they can make a little sacrifice and decline to be prioritized in testing by the DOH, as Datol would have it.’

    MORE than a year ago, ex-Representative Rudy Fariñas of Ilocos Norte formally proposed in the House that congressmen and congresswomen whose vehicles have been involved in traffic accidents should not be unduly delayed by the police and the solons allowed at once to proceed to Congress, to take care of whatever traffic violation or property damage to third parties later. What Fariñas wanted was to pass legislation giving VIP status to congressmen.

    This matter came to mind because of a funny episode at a hearing of the House of Representatives about the mass testing of suspected persons infected by the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease. Here, a similar claim of entitlement was touted by Rep. Francisco Datol Jr. of the Senior Citizens party-list.

    Datol unabashedly proposed that the government prioritize congressmen and employees of the House of Representatives in the testing for COVID-19

    The idea did not escape the sense of propriety of Rep. Angelina “Helen” Tan of the fourth district of Quezon province, who is chair of the House Committee on Health.

    Congresswoman Tan pointed out that members of the House can well afford to have their COVID-19 tests in private hospitals, at their own expense, and without bothering the government for such tests. Author of the original bill that gives the Department of Health (DOH) a supplemental budget during the early days of the pandemic, Representative Tan, who incidentally is a physician, knows that the government is working on a tight budget, what with the need to strengthen the public health care system and the equally important burden of funding the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) which became necessary because of the long lockdown in Luzon and other areas in the Visayas and Mindanao.

    Tan recognizes that the government has limited resources and should prioritize testing to those exposed in the field including health workers, those involved in contact tracing, the vulnerable, and those who are considered suspects.

    “With the limited resources that we have right now, ang ating panawagan ay magawa lang talaga ng Department of Health yung mga dapat i-test ngayon (We appeal to the DOH to test those who really need to be tested),” the lawmaker urged.

    The lady lawmaker from Quezon, meanwhile, understands where her colleague Rep. Datol was coming from. Indeed, members of Congress have local constituencies whom they regularly consult and thus, need to travel and mingle with people a lot. They are, in a sense, frontliners, too, especially when they go out in the provinces. But they can make a little sacrifice and decline to be prioritized in testing by the DOH, as Datol would have it.

    There should be no sense of — or demand for — entitlement even if one is a lawmaker, and Dr. Tan stressed this both in action and in words.

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