Now, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, as well as other lawmakers and staff physically present during the special session of Congress last Monday at the Batasan Pambansa will stay at home and be on self-quarantine after a fellow congressman disclosed that he tested positive for the deadly coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Rep. Eric Yap, who was tested positive for COVID-19, was among the 21 lawmakers and 10 staff who were physically present while 279 others joined the special session by teleconferencing.
Aside from Yap, the House identified the 20 lawmakers who were at the special session as Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, Representatives Sharky Palma, Precious Castelo and Mikey Arroyo, Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante, France Castro and Janette Garin, Deputy Speakers Raneo Abu, LRay Villafuerte, Robbie Puno and Dong Gonzales, Representatives Bong Suntay, Jon Jalosjos, Manny Lopez, Tonypet Albano, Jonathan Sy-Alvarado, Bambol Tolentino, Blu Abaya, Mike Defensor, and Cayetano.
After Yap’s revelation, House Secretary-General Jose Luis Montales said that they will again disinfect the Batasan Pambansa premises.
“Yes we disinfect after every use, before closing any room/building. Yes following protocols, they will be on self quarantine,” Montales said.
Montales was not physically present as he took care of the video conferencing from home.
During the session, Yap held up one of the 2 posters calling on the public to stay home during the special session that became controversial on social media because netizens felt that the lawmakers were likening themselves to medical frontliners.
“We went to work for you, so please stay home for us,” said the message written on the poster.
Asked about the photo, Yap replied: “Ok lang sir basta naman pulitiko nababash. Di ko kasi nabasa din nakasulat, hinawakan ko lang.”
Yap had informed Cayetano when he attended the meeting at the Palace last March 21 for the Special Powers Bill that he had doubts on his health.
Yap also recalled what prompted him to get tested on March 15.
“Nung March 15 nag pa test ako kasi may ubo ako na mild. Sabi 5 days lalabas result pero pumasok pa ako (March) 16 kasi may mga meeting na need attend sa Congress,” he said.
Yap said pending the release of his COVID-19 test results, he took safety precautions but still came to work. “Since wala pa result nagpunta ako kasi need to help pero nag social distancing na ako. Nung sa March 20 nag follow-up na ako result kasi need ko punta sa Malacañang March 21. Pero wala pa daw kaya sabi mask ako N95 then always alcohol tapos wala akong nilapitan at hinawakan dun. March 22 nag-follow up ulit ako sa RITM pero wala pa result. Need ko kasi pumasok sa 23, Monday kasi I want to make sure mapasa ung bill kasi alam ko need ng Pilipinas ‘yun but I still wear mask and social distancing pati alcohol. Since wala ako lagnat at ‘yung ubo ko mild lang kaya pag need sa Congress pumapasok ako,” he said.
“Pagdating ng March 15 po may ubo-ubo kasi ako 2 weeks na noon baka may symptoms baka may COVID ako nagpatest ako noon,” Yap said.
Yap said his case is proof that not all politicians get VIP treatment in COVID-19 testing.
He was told by the Department of Health (DOH) to just take precautions while waiting for his result.
“Sabi ng DOH wala pa, mag-ingat na lang ako mag mask ako, mag-alcohol ako lagi. Ganoon po ginawa ko nung nasa Malacañang ako, nag-disinfect ako. Never po ako lumapit sa mga Cabinet secretary na malapit at pag buong time po naka-mask ako. Natanggal ko lang 1 beses siguro sa picture pero hindi ako nakipagkamay sa mga Cabinet secretaries, kay Speaker, kay Senate President dahil ako po iniisip ko kahit wala pang result ayaw ko makahawa just in case po,” he said.
“So pagdating na nung Monday na itong 23 tinawagan ko ulit noong Sunday yung DOH kung may result na dahil ayaw ko pong makahawa pero hindi ko naman po pwedeng hindi pumasok sa 23 dahil napakahalaga po noon nitong gagawin nating special session,” Yap added.
Yap also said he had to leave Monday’s session early due to chills.
Aside from attending meetings in Congress and the Palace, Yap said he was doing constituency work while waiting for his COVID-19 test result.
Yap likewise reiterated his call for the public to stay home.
Yap also apologized to everyone he was in close contact with even as he assured his constituents that work will continue even during his isolation.
“Sa mga kasamahan ko sa Kongreso, gusto ko sana humingi ng paumanhin sa inyo. Sa mga nakasalamuha ko naman, huwag po kayo mag-alala, siguro mga ilang days na rin po iyon and sa mga kababayan natin stay at home po ‘pag ‘di na kailangan. Kakayanin po natin ito malalagpasan po natin itong pagsubok na ito,” he said.
Abante, in a press statement, said he has initiated tracing for those who came into contact with him following Yap’s disclosure. Abante will also go on self-quarantine./Stacy Ang