MANILA (Mabuhay) – Acting Health Secretary Janette Garin may have to wear a protective gear when she goes to the Senate next week during the budget deliberations of the agency’s proposed 2015 budget.
This, after acting Senate Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III expressed concern over the presence of Garin at the Senate session hall. Department or agency heads are required to be at the chamber during budget deliberations.
“It has been the practice of the Senate that we take up the budget of a department or agency if the agency or department head is present. When do you plan to take up the Department of Health budget?” Sotto said at the start of the Senate plenary budget deliberation.
Responding to Sotto’s query, Sen. Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said the DOH budget is set to be discussed on November 24, Monday.
“Uunahan ko na po kayo, kung gusto nyo magsuot siya [Garin] ng protective gear para maprotektahan tayo, hindi po ako mago-oboject,” Escudero said in jest.
Sotto’s concern came following the recent visit of Garin and Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. to the Filipino peacekeepers from Ebola-hit Liberia under quarantine on Caballo Island.
Sotto earlier chided Garin and Catapang for going to the island without any protective gear, claiming the two violated their own protocol. He said the two should also undergo quarantine.
Sotto likewise asked Escudero what the Senate would do if the other senators would question Garin’s wearing of a protective gear.
“We will not be able to see the expression or the facial expression of the secretary,” Sotto said.
Escudero said he will accommodate whatever request the minority leader may have in so far as the attire of Garin should be when she goes to the Senate.
Sotto said: “We were told that the reason they went there, and that goes also to the chief of staff of AFP, was they want to allay the fears of the troops. What about our fears?”
Escudero said he will let Senator Teofisto Guingona III, who will defend the DOH budget, to address the concern.
“I think Sen. Guingona will be more than willing to address the questions of the senator when he (Guingona) defends the budget of the DOH,” he said.
To which, Sotto remarked: “So we will cross the bridge when we get there.”
The Philippine College of Physicians has also criticized the military and health officials for the visit, noting that the Quarantine Act of 2004, which was the basis of the government order for the quarantine of the peacekeepers, limits travel to quarantine areas.
But Malacañang defended Garin and Catapang, maintaining that the two officials acted responsibly and did not breach any protocol set by the World Health Organization.
The Ebola virus, which claimed the lives of thousands of people, can be transmitted through close contact with blood secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals, body fluids and stools of an infected person, contaminated needles and soiled linen used by infected patients, anddirect contact with the body a deceased person.
Persons handling those infected with Ebola virus should wear protective gear to avoid contact and transmission. (MNS)