Palace reminds gov’t officials to follow COVID-19 protocols as more test positive

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 26 2020 04:31 PM

Sample of the locally-developed COVID-19 test kit from the UP-National Institutes of Health as presented during a press briefing on COVID-19 at the Philippine Genome Center in Quezon City on March 12, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA- Malacañang reminded all government officials Thursday to follow official COVID-19 protocols following reports that some high-ranking officials violated quarantine rules and later tested positive, while others demanded to be screened for the disease first as the country wrestled with a shortage of test kits.

All Filipinos who need to be tested for COVID-19 should follow the guidelines set by the Department of Health regardless of position or social status, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said, urging government officials to set an example to the public.

“There are no exemptions for any person on these health protocols. Those holding high positions in the government are enjoined to set an example to their constituents by strictly observing them,” Panelo said.

Panelo made the remark after 2 lawmakers—Sen. Koko Pimentel, and ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap—earned criticism for allegedly breaking quarantine protocols when they attended meetings and social functions even after being tested for COVID-19.

Both officials have tested positive for the disease and have apologized to the public.

Pimentel, in particular, drew public ire for going to the Makati Medical Center on Tuesday night to bring his pregnant wife for delivery even as he had earlier experienced symptoms. He learned of his diagnosis while at the facility. 

A majority of senators also took COVID-19 tests despite having no symptoms. Three senators have so far tested positive for the disease namely Pimentel, and Senators Miguel Zubiri and Sonny Angara.

“The protocols set by the government for persons under investigation or monitoring must be strictly and absolutely observed by all people falling under the said categories, regardless of their socio-political status,” Panelo said.

“They are not meant to discomfort or burden anyone. They have been established to ensure that public health and safety are secured at all times,” he added.

Panelo said violators “must be dealt with in accordance with law.”

The Department of Health previously assured the public that there is no policy for VIP treatment when it comes to COVID-19 testing. It, however, also said that it accords courtesy "to officials holding positions of national security and public health.”