By Ben Rosario
Deputy Speaker Conrado Estrella III demanded Tuesday the immediate burial of a Chinese man who succumbed to the 2019 novel coronavirus (nCoV) respiratory infection, saying that a violation of the law had already been committed due to the delayed internment.
Citing Section 91 (h), Chapter 21 of Presidential Decree No. 856 or the Sanitation Code of the Philippines, Estrella noted that there has been indecisiveness on the part of the Department of Health (DOH) to dispose of the remains of the fatality.
Interviewed over CNN this morning, Health Secretary Francisco Duque admitted that the remains of the 44-year-old Wuhan man have not been cremated as scheduled Tuesday.
“Cremation of the male positive of pneumonia and nCoV was supposed to happen today. I just wanted to know if finally the (owner of the) place they agreed to cremate has not changed his mind,” Duque said.
Duque lamented that even the Chinese community that previously supported cremation has started to have second thoughts about the process.
“It is really unfortunate they are backing out, I don’t understand,” he said.
Estrella said the DOH must carry out its duty as provided under the law, in this case PD 856.
“DOH should also now explore if they could use its funds to assist in the cremation of individuals who succumbed to nCoV,” said Estrella, who represents ABONO party-list.
Reacting to the same controversy, Senior Asst. Majority Leader and BH party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy said the Inter-Agency Task Force for Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases of the country should address the issue.
“Issues like this should be left to the experts, in a body that serves as the command center in the war against this deadly disease, coronavirus crisis,” Herrera-Dy said.
She called on concerned parties to put their trust in the experts handling emergency medical situations, saying “every action they take is primarily science-based with only the public interest in mind.”
Under PD 856, burial of a deceased person should take place with 12 hours after demise if the “cause of death is a dangerous communicable disease.”
Duque said nCoV falls under the same category as HIV-AIDS and other highly communicable diseases.
He is of the belief that once the host of the virus has expired, the microorganisms also die. However, Duque admitted that how long the microorganism will linger and remain active remains uncertain in the case of nCoV.