Is there such a thing as “unchristian” questions in a secular press briefing?
A Filipino priest and TikTok content creator called out a senior Palace official who said that it was “unchristian” for him to be asked how he managed to secure a bed in a COVID-19 referral hospital last weekend.
Father Fiel Pareja, a newly-ordained priest from the Archdiocese of San Fernando, Pampanga, responded to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque’s remarks in a press briefing conducted on Monday.
“Kung Christian ka pero nanlalamang ka ng tao, hindi ka totoong tagasunod ni Kristo. Don’t use Christianity as argument to hide your own selfishness (and) incompetence. Isang malaking insulto sa mahabang pila ng mga maysakit at naghihingalo na nagtyatyaga sa init ng araw at hamog,” he tweeted.
The spokesperson was asked by CNN Philippines’ Triciah Terada on how he got a slot in the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) while other Filipinos with worse symptoms, some even dying, were still in line and waiting for sufficient medical care.
“With all due respects, I think that is an un-Christian question,” Roque responded.
“Ang aking assurance lang, sa administrasyon po ni Presidente Duterte, lahat ng merong pangangailangang medikal mabibigyan ng tulong,” he added.
PGH is one of the top COVID-19 referral hospitals in Metro Manila, the pandemic epicenter in the country.
The Palace official was confined in the health facility on Saturday and was able to conduct a press briefing. It was the second time he contracted the virus.
He said that he initially isolated at home but his “oxygen level fell to 90,” which prompted him to seek hospital admission.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire previously said that if one’s oxygen level goes below 90, they are advised to be confined in a hospital.
Those afflicted with COVID-19 can have “silent hypoxia” wherein the body’s oxygen levels are abnormally low but the person does not show symptoms. If undetected, the condition can damage the body’s vital organs.
In addition to Roque’s low oxygen level, he has comorbidities that put him in a vulnerable position when infected with the virus. Reports said he has diabetes and a heart condition.
He previously had a heart procedure that prompted him to withdrew his senatorial bid in 2019.
The spokesperson’s PGH confinement came at a time when patients seeking beds in the hospital reportedly remain high as COVID-19 cases continue to surge.
“Skipping the line is unchristian, Harry. There are more patients with severe symptoms who need a room and you deprived them of that,” a critic in Twitter responded to his “unchristian” comment.
“Inhumane ginawa mo na inignore ‘yung mga libo-libong tao na naka queue sa hospital. The only unchristian in this scenario is how unethical the situation you created,” another Twitter user said.
“Unchristian din to lie all the time that the administration’s pandemic response was excellent,” a different Filipino commented, referencing Roque’s past remarks about the administration’s COVID-19 response.
A Philippine STAR reporter said that “around the time” the Palace official was admitted to the hospital, PGH spokesperson said that it has an “almost 95 percent bed occupancy” and that its intensive care unit (ICU) is already full.
“Alam niyo naman maraming nasa waitlist. Hirap mga taong makapasok sa hospital,” PGH Spokesperson Dr. Jonas del Rosario said to DZMM Teleradyo on Sunday.
Treatment czar health undersecretary Dr. Leopoldo Vega said some hospitals have agreed to provide additional beds for COVID-19 patients and increase their ICU settings as coronavirus cases continue to increase in the country.