Netizens are furious after learning that Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel visited a Makati hospital shortly before he learned that he tested positive of COVID-19, a clear breach of quarantine.
The Makati Medical Center (MMC) issued a strongly worded statement last night to call out Senator Pimentel, who brought his wife Kathryna Pimentel to their hospital for a cesarean section on Tuesday night while he was waiting for the results of his test. The hospital said he entered their delivery room, thereby possibly infecting patients, their children, and the hospital’s doctors and nurses.
“As a result, a number of our nurses and doctors may need to be quarantined which will further deplete the dwindling workforce of the hospital. The entire Delivery Room Complex will have to undergo decontamination and disinfection before it can be used,” MMC’s medical director Dr. Saturnino Javier said.
“We denounce the irresponsible and reckless action of the senator. He added to the burden of a hospital trying to respond in its most competent and aggressive manner to cope with the daunting challenges of this COVID-19 outbreak. More than anyone else, Mr. Pimentel should have realized the ardent desire of every well-meaning Filipino and every dedicated healthcare institution to contain the spread of the infection. His admonition for everyone to observe social distancing, enhanced community quarantine measures, washing of hands, and personal hygiene are nothing but empty rhetoric because he himself violated all those.”
In an interview with radio station DZMM, Javier said as many as eight hospital staff may have been exposed to the lawmaker. Senator Pimentel received the results of his COVID-19 test on the evening of March 24, the same night he went to MMC, but as a person under investigation (PUI), the lawmaker should have quarantined himself at home as he was already considered a possible carrier, a point made by many netizens.
“If your colleagues are already declaring [that] they’re positive and others have gone on quarantine, and you walk around a hospital, it’s not a good thing to do,” he added.
Prior to Senator Pimentel’s announcement that he was COVID-19 positive, his colleague Juan Miguel Zubiri had already announced that he had contracted the virus. Two other lawmakers, Sherwin Gatchalian and Nancy Binay, also went into self-quarantine after they attended a Senate hearing with a speaker who later tested positive for coronavirus.
Under the Department of Health’s own guidelines, a PUI has to complete a 14-day self-quarantine to ensure that the virus will not be transmitted to anyone.
In an interview on cable channel ANC, Senator Pimentel gave what sounded like a fairly half-hearted apology to the hospital.
“The reason why I went to the hospital on the evening of March 24 was to accompany my pregnant wife for scheduled delivery by CS [cesarean] the following morning. But still, I apologize to MMC for being in their hospital in the evening of March 24, 2020, which they deemed to be a breach of their containment protocol,” he said.
The lawmaker said he arrived at MMC at around 6pm, and that he received a call from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, which processed his test, at around 9pm. He informed the doctor attending to his wife about being COVID-19 positive and left the hospital immediately after. He insisted that during the several hours that he was inside MMC, he didn’t experience any symptoms and was wearing gloves and a face mask.
“Nobody has imposed a quarantine on me, except that to cooperate with the enhanced community quarantine, and of course I don’t really go out if there’s really nothing important [to do]. With or without COVID, I don’t really go out often. I’m a homebody,” he said.
— Ida 🦋 (@ikfortich) March 25, 2020
Netizens, however, weren’t buying it.
Calls for Senator Pimentel’s arrest for violating Luzon’s monthlong enhanced community quarantine were circulating online, and the hashtags #KokoPimentel, #KokoResign, and #KokoKulong (“Jail Koko”) have been trending ever since MMC denounced the gallivanting lawmaker.
As Twitter user @ikfortich wrote, “WE WANT SENATOR PIMENTEL TO BE JAILED AND PENALIZED FOR BREAKING QUARANTINE RULES! NO ONE SHOULD BE EXEMPTED FROM THE LAW!”
The Department of Justice has said that it will not yet order an investigation into Pimentel’s breach of quarantine, and asked people instead to show “compassion” to the senator.
Should the senator be jailed? Tell us what you think by commenting below or tweeting to @CoconutsManila.