“(There is) an ongoing investigation, I already sent a team from our task force. If it is really necessary that we file a case against him, we will,” PSG commander Col. Jesus Durante III said.
KARL NORMAN ALONZO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO
PSG eyes raps vs infected lawmaker
Alexis Romero, Romina Cabrera (The Philippine Star) - March 27, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Presidential Security Group (PSG) plans to file charges against ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap, who recently tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), for breaching security and health protocol when he attended a meeting with top administration officials on March 21 at Malacañang.

“(There is) an ongoing investigation, I already sent a team from our task force. If it is really necessary that we file a case against him, we will,” PSG commander Col. Jesus Durante III said.

Apart from some Cabinet members who have opted to go on self-quarantine, at least 20 people from the PSG and staff of the Office of the President were placed under quarantine procedures for having direct interaction with Yap, House appropriations committee chair.Palace officials said Yap has endangered the lives of people in the seat of power, which could have included President Duterte had he attended the meeting last weekend. 

Duterte was not part of the meeting but among the attendees were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Sens. Bong Go and Pia Cayetano, Rep. LRay Villafuerte, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Budget Secretary Wendell Avisado, Defense Secretary Deflin Lorenzana, Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process Carlito Galvez and Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista, some of whom have opted to undergo self-quarantine.While the PSG has been implementing strict security measures for all who are going in the Palace, Durante lamented that Yap seemed to have violated the rules.“We are letting them sign a declaration form.

The problem with Cong. Yap, he did not declare that he had contacts with people who were found positive and he has cough and that he has been experiencing some symptoms. He did not declare these,” he added.Under the PSG form, violators may face charges for violation of Article 171 and 172 of the Revised Penal Code, which is related to the crime of falsification of document which has a penalty of not more than P5,000 and imprisonment from two years, four months and one day to six years.The PSG is mandating all visitors and officials to answer a declaration form which has questions pertaining to the history of travel, respiratory inspection and possible exposure to COVID-19 patients in the last 14 days. It has a clause wherein the signatory vows for the veracity of the information with a warning that “failure to answer any question or any falsified response may have serious consequences under Article 171 & 172 of the Revised Penal Code.”Durante said he does not think there were any lapses with PSG personnel but he has ordered a full-blown investigation.Sen. Go said it is unfortunate that Yap had tested positive for COVID-19. “We are currently initiating contact tracing, particularly those present during a meeting I attended last Saturday,” said Go.“I’ve just been working the past few days.

I don’t have any of the symptoms. But since protocol requires that those who were directly exposed to persons positive for COVID-19 need to undergo self-quarantine, I am left with no choice but to comply,” he said.“I am always ready to fulfill my duties as a senator and public servant – anytime, any minute, regardless of the situation – in a manner that will not put others at risk.

I will continue to serve and I am ready to die serving my fellow Filipinos,” he said.Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo urged those who have interacted with Yap in the last two weeks to undergo 14 days self-quarantine protocol.“We are sorry to hear about the medical condition of Cong. Eric Yap.

We hope and pray that he gets well from COVID-19. We urge those who were in physical contact with him during the last two weeks to undergo the 14-day self-quarantine protocol for their protection,” Panelo said.Año, one of the two lead implementers of the Luzon-wide COVID-19 lockdown and designated as vice-chair of the National Action Plan against COVID-19, said that he has opted to go on self-quarantine effective March 25. The head of the Department of the Interior and Local Government assured the public that DILG operations will not be paralyzed even if he is on self-quarantine.“We will work now with higher intensitiy even if we work from home,” he added. He said that he is taking precautionary measures to undergo isolation despite having no physical contact with Rep. Yap and wearing masks. Año said that he would rather not get tested as he has no symptoms and be criticized if he does get one. Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, spokesman of the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, said yesterday that the group would now be conducting its meetings via teleconferencing, since many members of the task force are now on self-quarantine after they attended the meeting with Yap in Malacañang.“The IATF will continue to meet via teleconference. We will use the technology that we have on hand so that our work proceeds unhampered. Despite these challenges, your government will continue to work even harder to beat COVID-19,” Nograles said. The PSG chief noted that Yap seemed to have lied on the real circumstances of his health because he was not honest when he filled-up the health declaration form, which was among the precautionary measures placed by the PSG for all officials and visitors to the Palace.“From his explanation, he got tested because he already had some doubts and he had indicators. From that, he should have declared it (on our form) or a person should have already went into self-quarantine,” Durante said. At least six PSG personnel who were on duty and involved in the processing of the security check on Yap and other guests inside the Palace complex are placed under regular medical checks while being confined to barracks,

Durante said.“On the PSG side, these are those who are assigned at the gate. From the side of the Office of the President, we are still accounting for them, it might include the waiters who served (during the meeting), so this is really a huge issue or concern inside the complex because of the incident,” Durante added. Safety protocol The PSG is not putting Duterte’s safety and health at risk due to the recklessness of some.According to Durante, the President’s face-to-face encounters are being limited even if he has been getting updates on the ground regarding the government’s efforts to fight COVID-19.“Right now, we are restricting any visitors, even in meetings.

During the last meeting, (they had a) tele-conference and (done through) phone calls if necessary,” the PSG chief said, when asked about the 74-year-old’s work routine. “There are no longer direct meetings for now,” he added. Since there is a need for members of the skeleton staff to go to work in Malacañang, Durante said they are imposing strict guidelines. He also reiterated his call for everyone to cooperate during the duration of the enhanced community quarantine.“We are just reminding them to please cooperate with us, the PSG, and they should be honest in disclosing all these information.

The bottomline here is we are fighting COVID-19, this is for the safety and good health for everyone of us, not only the President, but for all of us,” Durante said. The PSG classified as persons under investigation all those who had direct contact with Yap when he went to Malacañang last Saturday to attend the meeting between lawmakers and some members of the Cabinet for the discussions on the special powers to be granted to the President.

COL. JESUS DURANTE III
Philstar
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