Senate not on lockdown, just restricted access – Sotto

Published March 12, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola 

Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Thursday clarified that the Senate is only under “restricted access” and not on lockdown as he earlier announced.

Senate of the Philippines building (Senate of the Philippines official Facebook)
Senate of the Philippines building (Senate of the Philippines official Facebook)

In a text message to reporters, Sotto said he issued a directive to enforce a restricted access in the Upper Chamber’s compound — and not a lockdown — after a resource person in a recent Senate hearing tested positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“Why? It does not reflect the actual situation in the Senate,” he said.

“The term lockdown has been misinterpreted and abused,” he pointed out.

Certain areas of the building will be cordoned off from Senate employees while disinfection is being conducted.

“Officials and their staff who have work to do and complete are required to report for work,” Sotto said in a separate statement.

The clarification came following his announcement on Wednesday night that the Senate will be closed to employees and visitors.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian had earlier bared that one of the resource persons in a hearing by the Senate Basic Education Committee last March 5 was one of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country.

Gatchalian, as well as Sen. Nancy Binay, who also attended the hearing, are now on self-quarantine.

Despite the COVID-19 scare, Sotto maintained that the Senate has “to continue to function.”

“The Filipino people need us today and we cannot let the threat and scare of an infection to distract us from work. However, I have given strict instructions that all employees should exercise extreme preventive practices as they go about their daily tasks,” he said.

“It is of utmost importance that everyone observes proper hygiene and follows protocols as a precaution against contamination,” he ordered.

The Senate chief said employees who experience symptoms of COVID-19, or those who have recently travelled to countries with high contamination rates, or those who had exposure to local patients, should go on self-quarantine but continue to work from home.

Sotto said others who wish to enter the Senate’s premises during this time would first have to seek permission from Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Rene Samonte.

Samonte will recommend to Sotto when the Senate can resume hearings and open to the public.

“‘Til the disinfection is 100 percent [complete]. The Sergeant-at-Arms, Gen. Samonte will inform me,” Sotto said.

As of Thursday morning, disinfection and sanitation of some of the Senate’s facilities were reportedly completed.