Senior Citizens lawmaker Francisco Datol Jr dies of COVID-19

Senior Citizens Representative Francisco “Jun” Datol Jr died on Monday morning, August 10, due to the coronavirus. He was 71 years old.

His death was confirmed in a statement by House Secretary General Luis Montales, who said the lower chamber is still getting other details regarding the legislator’s passing. 

“It is with deep sadness that we inform you that Cong. Jun Datol passed away a few hours ago. We will give you the details as soon as we receive them. May he rest in peace. Our heartfelt condolences to his loved ones,” Montales said. 

It was later confirmed by Senior Citizen's second nominee Rodolfo Ordanes on Tuesday, August 11, that the official cause of death was acute respiratory distress due to COVID-19.

This makes Datol the first lawmaker in the 18th Congress to die of COVID-19, which has so far infected over 139,000 and killed 2,312 in the country.

"It is with deep sadness that we inform our constituents, the senior citizens and retirees nationwide, that Rep. Francisco G. Datol, Jr has died because of acute respiratory distress due to COVID-19 on August 10, 2020," Ordanes said in a statement.

"The Office of Congressman Datol expresses its condolences to his family and his colleagues in the Senior Citizen Party-list and in Congress," he added.

Bagong Henerasyon Representative Bernadette Herrera said it was easy to work with Datol, whom she would often talk to on the phone regarding their proposed measures in the House. 

"Masayang katrabaho si Congressman Jun Datol sa Kongreso. Ka-phone pal ko 'yan. Kausap ko halos araw-araw para maitulak ang mga bill at resolution para sa seniors. Hindi ko na-feel na siya ay may edad na dahil sa enerhiyang ipinamalas niya tuwing nagtatrabaho, lalo na sa komite," said Herrera.

(It was pleasant to work with Congressman Jun Datol in Congress. He was my phone pal. I would talk to him almost every day to lobby for bills and resolutions for seniors. I never felt his age because of the energy he would bring to work, especially in the committees.)

Datol, who was serving his second term as congressman, was the chairperson of the House committee on senior citizens and had staunchly pushed for bills protecting the welfare of elderly Filipinos. 

He would often grill government officials attending various House hearings to increase benefits received by senior citizens.

Datol recently led the filing of House Resolution No. 1054 asking the embattled Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to expand its coverage of dialysis sessions for senior citizens from the current 90 days to 144 days. 

In May, Datol also made the controversial appeal during a hearing for House members and their staff to be prioritized for coronavirus testing because they were paying their PhilHealth premiums – even if millions of ordinary Filipinos are unable to be accommodated by the country's overwhelmed healthcare system.

The lawmaker took his oath as Senior Citizens representative only in December 2019 following an internal dispute within his party.

During the 2019 elections, Datol, Milagros Aquino Magsaysay, and Godofredo Villar Arquiza had all claimed to be party president and each endorsed different sets of nominees for Senior Citizens.

Datol was able to take his seat in Congress after the Commission on Elections issued a certificate of proclamation declaring Senior Citizens among the winning party-list groups, with him as the duly recognized first nominee. – 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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