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Solon wants congressmen prioritized in COVID-19 testing

/ 08:01 PM May 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Amid questions over the country’s capability to conduct large-scale testings during the coronavirus pandemic, a lawmaker on Wednesday expressed hopes that congressmen will be prioritized for testing.

In expressing his support towards House Bill No. 6707 which pushes for a baseline PCR testing for “vulnerable members of society” including “vulnerable asymptomatics”, Senior Citizens Partylist Rep. Francisco Datol Jr. said that congressmen and employees of Congress should be prioritized because they, too, pay their contributions to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

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“I’m supporting the House Bill pero dapat mauna tayong ma-test, yung mga congressman, congresswomen at mga empleyado ng Congress,” Datol said during the online hearing of the House of Representatives’ Defeat COVID-19 Committee’s (DCC) Health and COVID-19 Response Cluster.

(I’m supporting the house bill but congressmen, congresswomen and employees of Congress should get tested first.)

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“Lahat naman tayo nagbabayad ng PhilHealth. Kamukha nating mga congressman, 304 tayo. Nagbabayad tayo tuwing magssweldo tayo, salary deduction, P900 a month. Sa loob ng tatlong taon, P32,420,” the lawmaker said.

(We’re all paying our PhilHealth contributions. Like us congressmen, there’s 304 of us. We all pay contributions of P900 a month via salary deduction every payday. That’s P32,420 in three years.)

Datol said that more than 100 members of Congress are considered senior citizens who are vulnerable to the disease.

“Ngayon, kamukha naming mga senior citizen sa Kongreso, mahigit 100 kami diyan. Ang alam ko, ang senior citizen exempted na sa PhilHealth. Bakit lahat tayo, bata at matanda sa Kongreso, inaalisan pa ng P900 a month,” Datol said.

(Like us seniors citizens in Congress, there’s over a hundred of us. From what I know, senior citizens are exempted from paying PhilHealth [contributions]. But how come all of us, whether young or old, are still being deducted P900 a month.)

“Kaya nga ang hiling ko sana, unahin muna natin sana, kung ang testing na yan ay maaprubahan na, unahin muna ang lahat ng ating mga colleagues at ating mga empleyado. Siguro mga almost 5,000 tayo,” he added.

(So my wish is, that if testing is approved, our colleagues and employees get tested first. I think there’s about 5,000 of us.)

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The lawmaker further said: “Kasi tayo, kahit may sakit, hindi pwedeng hindi tutulong tayo sa kababayan…Pag eleksyon nagha-house to house tayo, kaya nga kapag hindi tayo nag-house to house ngayon, pupulaan po tayo.”

(Because even if we get sick, we cannot not help our fellowmen. During elections, we must go house to house. If we don’t, we get criticized.)

Datol likewise suggested the inclusion of senior citizens in the priority list under the bill as they are the demographic that registered the highest fatality rate over the virus.

“I hope that this body will consider my suggestion para naman mapawi ang kaba at alinlangan ng ating mga lola at lolo sapagkat malalaman nila ang Kongreso ay nandito para alagaan sila,” Datol said.

(I hope this body will consider my suggestion to ease the doubts and fears of the senior citizens. So they will know that Congress is here to take care of them.)

In March, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III disclosed that some “VIPs” made direct requests to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) for them to be tested for COVID-19.

Duque, however, noted that the “VIPs” met the prior DOH guidelines on who should be tested – individuals with exposure to COVID-19-positive patients and those who had recent travel to countries with local transmission.

Regardless, the requests made by the “VIPs” drew flak on social media, especially following report that some of those tested—including government officials—did not show any symptoms.

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