House appropriations panel chair Eric Yap tests positive for coronavirus

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – House committee on appropriations chairperson Eric Yap confirmed he acquired the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), making him the first congressman to publicly disclose his positive results. 

“It is with a heavy heart that I share to all of you that I tested positive for coronavirus,” said the ACT-CIS representative in a statement on Wednesday, March 25, the same day he found out about his test results.

Yap said he had his swabs taken on March 15 after being exposed to different persons who had contact with a COVID-19 case since March 10. But the lawmaker was not clear if he was already exhibiting symptoms when his test was taken.

The Department of Health (DOH) informed him about his positive test results on Wednesday.

“Inis at galit ang naramdaman ko dahil alam ko sa sarili ko na maaaring nailagay ko sa alanganin ang buhay ng mga taong nakapaligid sa akin (I feel annoyed and angry with myself because I know I placed the lives of the people with whom I interacted at risk),” Yap said.  

The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, citing clerical error, said two days later that Yap “remains negative.” The fact remains, however, that he broke quarantine protocols while he was a person under investigation, and exposed several high-level government officials in the process.

From March 10 to 25 – while waiting for the results of his coronavirus test – Yap disclosed he still attended a number of gatherings with high-ranking government officials, including the House’s 17-hour special session on Monday, March 23, and a meeting in Malacañang with several Congress leaders and Cabinet members on Saturday, March 21.  

Here is a timeline of Yap’s recent activities. 

Apart from Yap, the lawmakers who attended the March 21 meeting in Malacañang include Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate health panel chair Bong Go, Senate ways and means panel Pia Cayetano, Speaker Alan Cayetano and Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte. 

Also present were the following Cabinet officials: Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año. 

POSITIVE VIBES. Representative Eric Yap (extreme left) attends a meeting with Congress and House members on March 21, 2020, 4 days before his positive COVID-19 results came out. Photo courtesy of Senator Bong Go

POSITIVE VIBES. Representative Eric Yap (extreme left) attends a meeting with Congress and House members on March 21, 2020, 4 days before his positive COVID-19 results came out.

Photo courtesy of Senator Bong Go

Yap apologized to all the people he made contact in the past days. 

Humihingi ako ng patawad at pag-unawa mula sa mga taong nakasalamuha ko. I was paranoid  dahil may kaunting ubo akong naramdaman but I felt it was normal for me. Mas nag-ingat tayo dahil wala pang resulta ang test ko," Yap said.

(I ask for forgiveness and understanding from all the people I made contact with. I was paranoid because I had some cough but I felt it was normal for me. We were extra careful because my results weren't out yet.)

Those who know me personally know that I practice good personal hygiene. But it didn’t spare me from this virus,” added the ACT-CIS representative.

Yap is now the 3rd member of the 18th Congress to test positive for COVID-19, along with Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senator Koko Pimentel, who was denounced by the Makati Medical Center for irresponsibly exposing hospital workers to the deadly disease.

To date, the Philippines has tallied a total of 636 coronavirus cases, 38 of which were fatal. So far, 26 patients have already recovered. It remains unclear if Yap is already part of the 636 positive cases already reported by the DOH. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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