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Cayetano lashes out: ‘If holding up sign gets people to stay home, I will do it again’

Mara Cepeda
Cayetano lashes out: ‘If holding up sign gets people to stay home, I will do it again’

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano argues House and Cabinet members 'meant well' when they posed with the now-viral manila paper signs

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano lashed out at critics of his “Stay at home for us” gimmick in the House, saying he would do it again if it meant protecting people from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Cayetano delivered a midnight address on Monday, March 23, minutes after the House of Representatives approved the bill granting President Rodrigo Duterte 25 special powers to address the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In his speech, the Speaker defended the now-viral manila paper signs that House and Cabinet members held up during the special session urging the public to stay home because their leaders and frontline workers went to work for them. (READ: Pinoys online livid over ‘Stay at home for us’ gimmick in House) 

“Tayo pong mga kongresista, there’s no doubt: whatever happens, trabaho nating pumunta dito. Nasusunog ‘tong building na ‘to pero kailangan ng session, nandito tayo. That’s why nga ginawa natin ‘yong ganitong arrangement ‘di ba? But what about the staff to my right? The staff to my left? The staff that is in the lounge? The guards that are outside?” a visibly irked Cayetano asked.

(For us congressmen, there’s no doubt about this: whatever happens, it is our job to go here. This building may be on fire but if we need to hold a session, we’d be here. That’s why we did this type of arrangement, right? But what about the staff to my right? The staff to my left? The staff that are in the lounge? The guards outside?) 

“If you ask me to hold up a sign again, and even if the sign curses at me but it gets people to read and gets people to stay home, I will do it again and again and again,” Cayetano said.

The Taguig City-Pateros congressman then apologized to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, both of whom were part of the “Stay at home for us” gimmick.

Cayetano said Medialdea, who had “something with his heart fixed,” and Año risked possible exposure to COVID-19 by attending the special session on Monday. The Speaker lauded both Cabinet members for still going to the House anyway. 

“We meant well. Now if people will criticize us for meaning well, as long as alam natin tama ang ating ginagawa, [okay lang ‘yon] (as long as we know what we did is right, then that’s okay),” the Speaker said. 

‘Not the time for politicking’ 

In the same speech, Cayetano did not mince words against critics of the government’s tragic mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic.  (READ: Hell on earth: The agonizing confusion over coronavirus testing in PH) 

“Hindi time [para] mamulitika. Hindi time para i-weaponize itong COVID-19. We have a leader. Ako, it’s my choice to trust him,” Cayetano said, referring to Duterte. 

(This is not the time for politicking. Ths is not the time to weaponize COVID-19. We have a leader. For me, it’s my choice to trust him.)

“It’s a war. Did anyone here predict the war? You’re saying government is not prepared? Well, where was your plan for us to be prepared?” the Speaker added.

But no matter what Cayetano says, these criticisms are not unfounded. From just 3 positive cases in February, the Philippines now has 462 patients with COVID-19. Of that number, 33 have died while only 18 have recovered.  

Some Filipinos have even perished without even knowing that it was the fast-spreading disease that had killed them. 

Health workers and medical facilities across the country are also in dire need of protective gear, medical supplies, and test kits.

Those who are able to get their swabs taken for a COVID-19 test are forced to wait for at least a week for the results they hope would come back negative. Meanwhile, VIPs who do not meet the Department of Health’s criteria for priority testing still manage to get their results ahead of ordinary Filipinos. (READ: VIP treatment in coronavirus testing not a policy, says DOH)

Duterte already declared a state of public health emergency and placed the entire island of Luzon under lockdown in a bid to contain the pandemic. Other local government units were also allowed to impose localized lockdowns in their respective jurisdictions. 

The President is now asking Congress to declare a state of national emergency and give him special powers to help address the COVID-19 crisis. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.