SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) - March 27, 2020 - 12:00am

Stay home, huwag matigas ang ulo, President Duterte said in his address to the nation last Tuesday.

Would he personally deliver his message to the president of his political party the PDP-Laban, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III?

While healthy people who can’t eat if they don’t work are prevented from earning a living and (in some areas under full lockdown) even from venturing out of their homes to buy food, a senator who was fully aware that he was a person under investigation for COVID-19 broke quarantine protocols and walked into the Makati Medical Center (MMC) because, he explained, he was “excited” about his wife’s looming delivery of their first child.

Thanks to Koko Pimentel’s excitement, the MMC is seeing its dwindling medical staff further reduced by at least 22 employees due to protocols requiring them to undergo self-quarantine. The harried hospital staff had an additional chore: they had to decontaminate the entire delivery room complex where Pimentel’s wife, chef Kathryna Yu, underwent a stress test prior to delivery by caesarean section.

The MMC issued a scathing condemnation of the “irresponsible and reckless actions” of Pimentel, who also reaped heavy flak on social media.

Yesterday, S&R Membership Shopping also issued a statement confirming that Pimentel went to its BGC branch beside St. Luke’s on March 16, prompting the company to place several of its employees on home quarantine. He also reportedly attended two birthday parties. Pimentel’s wife had said the other day that he had been on self-quarantine for 10 days. Maybe they have a different definition of quarantine: one for the entitled, and another for the children of a lesser god.

Will the socialite who bemoaned the pasaway “mother*****s” waiting in line at checkpoints in hopes of earning a living use the same description for pasaway senators?

Truly, in what the President himself described as our effing country, some are more equal than others.

*      *      *

As of late Wednesday night, Pimentel had not apologized to the MMC and its overworked staff. Instead he was still trying to gain sympathy by focusing on who else but himself: woe is me, I’m positive for COVID-19 and I can’t be with my pregnant wife.

There was a hilarious post on social media by Lara Jane Mendoza – “Koko how could you do this… Alan went to work so you could stay home tapos ganito” – but it’s surely painful for MMC staff to laugh.

Alan is, of course, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who also refused to apologize for displaying those placards telling all of us that lawmakers labored for a day last Monday so we could stay home.

Around the world, there are thousands of people who can’t visit relatives suffering from COVID-19. Thousands of people in fact couldn’t even attend the funerals of their loved ones who succumbed to the disease, in line with safety protocols to prevent further contagion. As a critical care doctor Boston put it, when you die of COVID, you die alone.

Apart from the COVID fatalities, the lockdowns across the planet have prevented people from traveling to attend the funerals of loved ones who have died of other causes.

So, Mr. Senator, you’re not getting much sympathy in the time of COVID, even for testing positive for the disease.

After sleeping over the issue, Pimentel finally apologized to the MMC yesterday. An executive of the hospital, asked if the apology was accepted, replied that he could not answer for individual members of their workforce.

If any of the hospital staff confirmed to have come in contact with Pimentel becomes infected and, heaven forbid, the worst happens, legal experts say he can be held criminally liable.

Felonies, the lawyers say, can be committed by deceit or deliberate intent, or by fault, when the wrongful act results from imprudence, negligence, lack of foresight or lack of skill. An example of the second case is a vehicular accident that results in death. Even if the death was unintentional, the driver at fault can be convicted and imprisoned for homicide through reckless imprudence, aside from being required to pay damages and other fees.

*      *      *

Amid the flak they are getting, the attitude among politicians seems to be: is this the thanks we get?

Our politicians seem to be most discombobulated by the fact that the strongest challenges to their sense of entitlement are coming from the medical community. Many of our doctors are academic achievers – they are the class valedictorians and graduation speakers. Sworn to save lives and do no harm, they don’t publicly criticize or condemn lightly.

With their lives at stake, health professionals are up in arms against people pulling rank and aggravating their heavy workload. As of yesterday morning, nine of our heroic doctors in the front lines were confirmed to have died of COVID-19.

With more and more of their members succumbing to the coronavirus, the medical community has become uncharacteristically vocal in denouncing the abuse of power and sense of entitlement of public officials. Judging from reactions on multiple media, the issue has touched a raw nerve in the public.

Even in pre-COVID times, people were already aware of the inadequacy of public health care in this country. As in many other aspects of life in the Philippines, adequate health care is a luxury reserved only for the privileged few who control power and money.

There is VIP treatment even in adherence to quarantine protocols. In eastern Metro Manila alone, some 400 people have been apprehended by police for breaking COVID quarantine and curfew impositions.

Meanwhile, as of yesterday afternoon, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra was still pitching “compassion” for excited dad Koko Pimentel, and evading calls for the senator’s indictment for breaching quarantine protocols.

The COVID pandemic should leave indelible lessons on us lesser mortals about entitlements in this country.

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