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MANILA – The House of Representatives on Friday paid tribute to its incumbent and former members and employees who passed away in the midst of the coronavirus disease-19 (Covid-19) pandemic this year.

The memorial service, led by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, was held for Benguet Rep. Nestor Fongwan, Camarines Sur Rep. Marissa Andaya, Senior Citizens party-list Rep. Francisco Datol Jr., Sorsogon Rep. Maria Bernardita Ramos, who were not accorded the traditional necrological services due to safety and health restrictions stemming from the pandemic.

Velasco expressed gratitude to the deceased legislators and employees for their contributions to the country and dedication to service even amid the pandemic.

“At kung mayroon mang katangian ang bawat isang pinararangalan ngayon, ito po ay ang kagustuhan nilang patuloy na maglingkod sa ating bayan hanggang sa kanilang huling hininga. Pinili nilang maging mandirigma. Pinagpipitaganang mambabatas man, o empleyado ng Kamara, bawat isa ay piniling maglingkod sa bayan ng dalisay at walang pag-iimbot (If there is one common trait among those who are being honored today, it is their desire to serve the country until their last breath. They chose to be warriors. Whether they are revered lawmakers, or House employees, each one of them chose to serve the country genuinely and unselfishly),” Velasco said.

The chamber also paid its respects to 19 former House members, including former Speaker Arnulfo “Noli” P. Fuentebella, Jr., former senators and representatives Heherson Alvarez of Isabela, Maria Teresa Aquino-Oreta of Malabon-Navotas, and Edgardo Ilarde of Rizal.

Also included were 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 Party-list, Alfredo Marañon Jr. of Negros Occidental, Augusto Syjuco Jr. of Iloilo, Zenaida De Castro-Maranan of 1-UTAK Party-list, Elnorita Tugung of Basilan, Pacifico Fajardo of Nueva Ecija, and Yusop Jikiri of Sulu.

Velasco also honored the 21 House employees who passed away this year, describing them as “unsung heroes” who deserve as much recognition for their contribution in strengthening and maintaining the integrity of Congress.

Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, for his part, expressed gratitude to the lawmakers for choosing to continue performing their duties as “representatives of our people” despite the Covid-19 threat.

“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,” Romualdez 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.”

Romualdez also lauded the 21 House employees from the secretariat and congressional staff who succumbed to various illnesses directly or indirectly related to Covid-19, stressing that the services and sacrifices of the employees will never be forgotten.

“[They] 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 said.

Romualdez said the House of Representatives continues to implement strict health and safety protocols to fight the spread of the Covid-19 on its premises. (PNA)

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