PSG eyes filing charges vs COVID-19-infected congressman for breaching Malacañang protocol

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 26) — The Presidential Security Group says charges may be filed against House appropriations committee chair Eric Yap of ACT-CIS Party-list for attending a Malacañang meeting and misdeclaring information on his health condition, just days before getting confirmation that he tested positive for the virus.

PSG Commander Col. Jesus Durante said they are already conducting investigation involving the lawmaker, who revealed Wednesday that he tested positive for the virus. Durante said depending on the results of the investigation, charges can be filed against Yap.

Yap, who entered Malacañang last Saturday for a meeting with other lawmakers and other government officials, failed to disclose all the necessary information, Durante noted.

"The PSG fully implements strict security measures in Malacañang Palace. One of these is by filling up a declaration form which asks for contact tracing and monitoring, COVID-19 symptoms check, and travel history," the PSG said in a statement.

"For whatever reason, he failed to disclose all needed information. PSG troopers on duty assessed him according to the answers on the said form he submitted, the basis of which he was allowed entry," it added.

Furthermore, Durante said that at least 20 people were told to isolate themselves following the incident. Among them are the PSG staffers who were at the gate to receive Yap, the personnel who served during the meeting, and Senator Christopher “Bong” Go.

The PSG said the incident will serve as a reference for its implementation of enhanced screening measures for all who will enter Malacañang Complex.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Palace has received reports that certain officials considered as persons under investigation or monitoring have breached the health department's protocol. But the Office of the President will still evaluate the reports, he said.

“The reports being aired in the open are however conflicting, hence the Office of the President deems it appropriate that the same be formally evaluated by the concerned agencies upon a complaint or otherwise to ascertain the true facts behind the incidents,” said Panelo in a statement.

He added, “The protocols set by the government for persons under investigation or monitoring must be strictly and absolutely observed by all people falling under the said categories, regardless of their socio-political status.”

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Yap said he will cooperate with the investigation.

He admitted that he had himself tested for COVID-19 on March 15 after coming into contact with Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade. Tugade underwent self-quarantine after attending an event with a COVID-19 patient but later tested negative for the disease.

"Wala akong symptoms, wala naman akong nakasalamuhang nag-positive," Yap said, explaining he was asymptomatic when he visited Malacañang. [Translation: I had no symptoms, I had not been in the company of anyone who tested positive for COVID-19].

CNN Philippines Correspondents Xianne Arcangel and Triciah Terada contributed to this report.