Bulacan solon COVID-19 positive

ANOTHER congressman tested positive for coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19), bringing to two  the number of House of Representatives members confirmed to be infected, while a lawmaker’s final testing for the deadly virus turned out negative from previous positive results.

House Secretary General Atty. Jose Luis G. Montales named Bulacan Rep. Henry Villarica as the second lawmaker who tested positive of COVID-19 on Thursday after ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap Go made public his
infection of the deadly virus.

Montales said Villarica last reported for work on March 4 and attended an event hosted by Baliuag Mayor Ferdie Estrella, who was reported earlier to have tested positive, on March 8. “Rep. Villarica was admitted to the hospital on March 12 for pneumonia. His condition is stable. Members of his staff have not exhibited any symptoms,” said Montales.

At the same time, Montales said Manila Teachers party-list Rep. Virgilio S. Lacson tested negative for COVID-19. “Initial screenings showed positive results. The sample was brought to RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine) for final testing and official confirmation. RITM has just relayed the result to Rep. Lacson,” said Montales.

In a related development, House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate along with fellow Bayan Muna Reps. Ferdinand Gaite and Eufemia Cullamat hit the appointment of mainly former and current military and police generals to oversee and implement the country's action plan against the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Are we now in a state of undeclared martial rule and a de facto junta is now running the country?" Zarate asked. To implement the "national action plan" to fight the dreaded corona virus, President Rodrigo Duterte recently designated Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana as chair of the group in charge of the plan, with Interior Sec. Eduardo Año as its vice-chairman. The group also includes Social Welfare Sec. Rolando Bautusta and the current chiefs of the AFP and PNP.

On Thursday, Malacañang also announced the appointment of former AFP Chief of Staff Carlito Galvez Jr. as the chief implementer of the country’s national action policy (NAP) against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The NAP is the "overall national strategy to deal with the COVID-19 problem and its aftermath." "Sec. Galvez's latest appointment as the czar of a supposedly highly health, medical and economic crisis we are facing due to COVID 19, only bolsters the argument that the current 'enhanced community quarantine' or lockdown in many parts of the country is an undeclared martial law," said Zarate.

"A health or medical expert along with an experienced progressive economist or national planner would have been better appointed as co-chairs and implementer as they would be more attuned to what is needed to address the crisis we are facing - one that requires not a militarist framework," added the Davao-based solon.

"With this militarist approach becoming prevalent, we have to be more vigilant against more condemnable human rights violations like what happened in Quiapo," said Zarate.

Gaite also scored the "piling up of abuses resulting from the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine." "From caging minors who violated the curfew, to people being held under the midday sun, and now this. Authorities have been empowered to commit abuses as the government confronts the health crisis as a peace and order issue instead of a medical one," said Gaite.

"These things happen when military men are put in charged. Galvez, along with the Lorenzana and Año should even be quarantined because they have been exposed to COVID positive patients like Cong. Eric Yap and others," he said.