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Not even solons spared by pandemic

Michelle R. Guillang



Some 44 House lawmakers, including former ones, and employees have succumbed to various illnesses, some of which were directly related to coronavirus disease (COVID-19), during the time of pandemic.

Four of them were 18th Congress representatives Nestor Fongwan (Benguet); Marissa Andaya (Camarines Sur); Francisco Datol Jr. (Senior Citizens Party-list); and Maria Bernardita Ramos (Sorsogon, District 2).

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Friday led the “In Memoriam,” a program to pay collective tribute to them, held at the plenary hall. This was one of the culminating activities of “HRep Month” which was launched to mark the 113th anniversary of the creation of the Philippine Assembly of elected district representatives.

“This is perhaps our last farewell: that even though the world seems to have turned upside down, we have worked so we can be together as a more stable and reliable institution, to further improve the law formulation in our country,” Velasco said in his eulogy.

“And if there is one virtue which everyone honored today held, it is their desire to continue to serve our people until their last breath. They chose to be warriors. Be it a legislator or employee of the House, everyone has chosen to serve the people purely and unselfishly,” he added.

The House also paid its respects to 19 former lawmakers who died last year, namely, former Speaker Arnulfo “Noli” P. Fuentebella, Jr. (Camarines Sur); former senators and representatives Heherson Alvarez (Isabela); Maria Teresa Aquino-Oreta (Malabon-Navotas); and Edgardo Ilarde (Rizal).

Former Representatives Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. (Tarlac); Romulo Lumauig (Ifugao); Amadeo Perez, Jr. (Pangasinan); Milagrosa Tan (Samar); Edgar Mendoza (Batangas); Martin Isidro (Manila); Antonio Cuenco (Cebu); Arcadio Gorriceta (Iloilo); Jose Ping-ay (COOP NATCCO Partylist); Alfredo Marañon Jr. (Negros Occidental); Augusto Syjuco Jr. (Iloilo); Zenaida De Castro-Maranan (1-UTAK Partylist); Elnorita Tugung (Basilan); Pacifico Fajardo (Nueva Ecija); and Yusop Jikiri (Sulu) were also given tribute.

House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez also joined Velasco in paying tribute to the deceased members of the House and honored the 21 House employees, who were from the Secretariat and Congressional Staff, who succumbed to various illnesses directly or indirectly related to COVID-19.

“It pains us to see their empty chairs in the plenary hall, but we are comforted by the fact that they fought valiantly against their illness in order to carry on with their unselfish devotion to public service. Our fallen comrades may be gone, but I am sure that their memories will linger on forever in the hearts and minds of those whose lives they had touched,” Romualdez said.

Romualdez said the House employees “had worked with us in the trenches, regularly reporting for work at the height of the coronavirus spread in the country and called them the “ unsung heroes of the 18th Congress.”

They are: Minalang Barapantao, Jr. (SLSO II, CAD); Gina C. Donina (LSE I, Engineering Service); Rezolito A. Paño (LSO V, Procurement & Supply Management Service); Grace L. Ilustrisimo (PAO III, Ofc. Of Rep. C.D. Montalla); Vincent Paul D. Natividad (PAA I, Ofc. of Rep. M.N. Nagaño); Jose R. Mojado (PAO III, Ofc. of Rep. R. Sinsuat); Arnel C. Pelayo (LSA II, Legislative Security Bureau); Joe Mar L. Maulion (PAA II, Ofc. of Rep. R. Del Mar); Ramon Ignatius C. Lazo (CPAO, Ofc. of Rep. G. Roman); Brandon G. Pabelona (LSA III, Printing & Reproduction Service); Manuel E. Rocha (CPAO, Ofc. of Rep. Bernardita Ramos); John Robert P. Milagroso (PAA II, Ofc. of Rep. M.N. Nagaño); Mariano B. Tumaliwan (PAA I, Ofc. of Rep. B. Fernando); Allan Andrew V. Ramoso (SLSO III, CAD); Eleanor C. Mamaril (SLSO II, CPBRD); Lilia C. Lopez-Valencia (LSO VI, CAD); Perla T. Velasco (CPAO, Ofc. of Rep. R.B. Zamora); Philip G. Latonero ( LSA III, Bills & Index Service); Lina Marciana T. Nario (SLSO III, Publication & Editorial Service); Jovita M. Baluso (LSA III, Cashiering Service); and Danivic Y. Rasay (LSO I, Legislative Security Bureau).