Lawmaker wants congressmen to get priority in COVID-19 testing

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 20) — Amid controversies surrounding the government's limitations in testing capacity, a senior lawmaker wants him and his colleagues in the House of Representatives to be prioritized for testing.

At the virtual hearing of the House Defeat COVID-19 Committee on Wednesday, Senior Citizens Party-list Rep. Francisco Datol said that giving congressmen priority would help ensure that they are capable of serving their constituents amid the pandemic.

"Dapat po mauna tayong ma-test — mga congressman, congresswoman, empleyado ng Congress. Lahat naman po tayo nagbabayad ng PhilHealth," Datol told the panel, amid the deliberation of having a baseline polymerase chain reaction or PCR testing for the vulnerable sector of the country.

[Translation: We should be the first ones to get tested — the congressmen, congresswomen, employees of Congress. We are all paying for our PhilHealth contributions anyway.]

The panel was deliberating on House Bill 6707 or the "Crushing COVID Act", which seeks to cover testing among persons returning to work with pre-existing conditions, and those entering the Philippines coming from abroad. Datol gave these remarks after suggesting that senior citizens should be included in the list, prior to the approval of the measure on committee level.

"Ang hiling ko sana, kung yung testing na yan ay maaaprubahan, unahin natin ang ating mga colleagues at mga empleyado," he said. "Siguro po mga nasa almost 5,000 tayo."

[Translation: If expanded testing for these individuals will be approved, I hope we prioritize our colleagues and employees. There's probably 5,000 of us here.]

"Kung pupunta tayo sa Kongreso ngayon, yung 25 araw-araw na nasa plenary, ang nakikita ko po parang boxing...tayo mga boksingero, ang kalaban natin hindi nakikita. Hindi po natin alam ngayon kung sino na ang may karamdaman sa atin."

[Translation: If you look at Congress now, of the 25 lawmakers who are in the plenary daily, it looks like a boxing match... we are the boxers, but we couldn't see our opponent. We have no idea who is already infected.]

The Department of Health said on Tuesday that it is engaging in an "expanded" targeted testing policy, intended for people manifesting COVID-19 symptoms and those who have been exposed to positive cases.

Malacañang earlier insisted that holding a mass testing among millions of Filipinos would be "physically impossible."

Calls for mass testing have been all over social media since March, when the Department of Health confirmed local transmission of the disease. On the same month, no less than Health Secretary Francisco Duque III disclosed that "VIPs", mostly government officials, made direct requests to be tested for the virus.

The Philippines has 12,942 COVID-19 cases to date, with 2,843 recoveries and 837 deaths.