Deputy Speaker Oaminal tests positive on SONA eve, attends House session

Misamis Occidental 2nd District Representative Henry Oaminal, one of the deputy speakers at the House of Representatives, attended the House session reopening on Monday, July 26, despite testing positive for COVID-19 a day before, Rappler learned.

This potentially endangers lawmakers and staffers who also attended the session on Monday, amid a rise in the more infectious coronavirus Delta variant in the Philippines. The session hall in which Oaminal attended the House's reopening is also the same hall where President Rodrigo Duterte will deliver his sixth and final State of the Nation Address.

The positive test result was confirmed to Rappler by Oaminal himself in a phone call with Rappler on Monday, saying he got the result on Sunday evening.

"Gabi na kaya nagpareserve ako agad (ng test), kasi when I received it, hindi ako makapaniwala. I was not feeling anything naman eh," Oaminal told Rappler.

(It was already evening, so when I received it, I could not believe it. I was not feeling anything anyway.)

He said he got tested in another lab, which finally yielded negative results.

Oaminal sent to Rappler a copy of his negative test result. Oaminal was tested on Monday past midnight at 12:10 am, and got the results at 5:15 am, saying he was negative to COVID-19.

When he entered the House on Monday, he also got a negative result from the less reliable antigen test.

Oaminal also said he had earlier been infected by the coronavirus in May, and that he has already been fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated individuals can still catch COVID-19, however, especially with the more infectious Delta variant, which has reached the Philippines.

According to Department of Health (DOH) rules, a person who tested positive for COVID-19 who is asymptomatic must isolate for 10 days after exposure. The isolated person can get tested on the 5th day. If the person tests negative, the person needs to finish the 10-day isolation before breaking self-quarantine. If the person tests positive again, the person has to isolate for 10 more days.

Oaminal rushed his process, receiving positive test results on Sunday evening, and then getting tested again just hours later.

After answering Rappler's questions on the possible danger he carried, Oaminal eventually decided to go home on Monday and participate virtually.

He initially said he will stay and "will be strictly following the protocols."

Rappler has texted and called House Secretary General Mark Llandro Mendoza about how Oaminal's case will be handled, but he has not answered as of posting. –

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.