HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin G. Romualdez on Friday said the House of Representatives pays tribute to sitting and former congressmen and House employees who died in the midst of the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic this year.
“Today, I join Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and my colleagues in the House of Representatives in paying tribute to four of our members in the 18th Congress who died in service to the Filipino people, but were not given the honors traditionally conferred due to the limitations imposed by the coronavirus pandemic,” Romualdez, a lawyer and chairman of the powerful House Committee on Rules, told his colleagues during the memorial service organized by the House of Representatives on Friday morning.
The four House members are Honorable Nestor B. Fongwan of the Lone District of Benguet, Honorable Marissa Andaya of the 1st District of Camarines Sur, Honorable Francisco G. Datol, Jr. of the Senior Citizens Party-List, and the Honorable Bernardita “Ditas” Ramos of the 2nd District of Sorsogon.
Romualdez, President of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) and the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), also expressed gratitude to the lawmakers for “choosing to continue performing their duties as Representatives of our people despite the threat of COVID-19 infection.”
“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,” the House Majority Leader said. “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.”
Velasco credited their colleagues and House employees for their unselfish work in serving the Filipino people.
“Hindi po lingid sa atin na ‘di po kayang tumbasan o bigyan ng hustisya ng ilang salita lamang ang mga makukulay at mapagmahal na mga buhay ng mga pinarangalan ngayong araw,” Velasco said.
“Ngayong pandemyang ito, nawa’y maramdaman ninyo ang aming taos-pusong pakikiramay. [Ang] mga maliliit na bagay [na] tunay na tumatak sa atin ay mga nakapagpapaalala sa atin sa mga kasamahan natin na biglang namayapa sa panahon ng krisis na ito,” Velasco said.
“Subalit ngayong wala na sila, tila ba lalong tumingkad ang mga maliliit na bagay na ito. Ngayon ay panahon ng paggunita. Bagama’t tila nabago po ang mundo, gamitin po natin ang mga pagbabago sa ating kapakinabangan,” Velasco stressed.
“At kung mayroong mang katangian ang bawat isa sa pinaparangalan ngayon, ito po ang kagustuhan nilang patuloy na maglingkod sa ating bayan hanggang sa kanilang huling hininga,” the Speaker said.
“Hiniling nilang maging mandirigma. Bawat isa ay piniling maglingkod sa bayan ng dalisay at walang pang-iiimbot.”
“Ito na marahil ang ating huling pamamaalam. Kahit na tila bumaliktad na ang mundo, gumawa po tayo ng sariling paraan para sama-sama, bilang isang mas matibay at maaasahang institusyon, ay lalo nating mapabuti ang pagpapanday ng batas sa ating bayan,” said Velasco.
The memorial service also honored the memories of 19 former House members who departed during the 18th Congress.
Among them are former Speaker Arnulfo “Noli” P. Fuentebella, Jr.of Camarines Sur, and former Senators and former Representatives Heherson Alvarez of Isabela, Maria Teresa Aquino-Oreta of Malabon/Navotas, and Edgardo Ilarde of Rizal.
The rest are former Representatives Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr. of Tarlac, Romulo Lumauig of Ifugao, Amadeo Perez, Jr. of Pangasinan, Milagrosa Tan of Samar, Edgar Mendoza of Batangas, Martin Isidro of Manila, Antonio Cuenco of Cebu, Arcadio Gorriceta of Iloilo, Jose Ping-ay of the COOP NATCCO Partylist, Alfredo Marañon Jr. of Negros Occidental, Augusto Syjuco Jr. of Iloilo, Zenaida De Castro-Maranan of 1-UTAK Partylist, Elnorita Tugung of Basilan, Pacifico Fajardo of Nueva Ecija, and Yusop Jikiri of Sulu.
“These men and women blazed a trail in legislation and District representation that we, the younger generation, had chosen to emulate. May your names be forever etched in our people’s memories,” Romualdez said.
The legislator also lauded the 21 House employees from the Secretariat and Congressional Staff who succumbed to various illnesses directly or indirectly related to COVID-19. These men and women, Romualdez said, “had worked with us in the trenches, regularly reporting for work at the height of the coronavirus spread in the country.”
“They are the unsung heroes of the 18th Congress,” Romualdez added, stressing that the services and sacrifices of the employees will never be forgotten.
They are: Minalang K. 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). As of October 29, 2020, the Department of Health (DoH) has registered over 370,000 cases of COVID-19 in the country.
The death toll was recorded at 7, 147 while the total recoveries was at 329, 848.
At the House, 85 cases were recorded as of October 3, and 70 individuals or 82% of them have recovered.
The House of Representatives continues to implement strict health and safety protocols to fight the spread of the COVID-19 in its premises.