Gov't officials told: Lead fight by example in fight vs COVID

( - December 2, 2020 - 2:00pm

MANILA, Philippines—The Department of the Interior and Local Government again reminded officials that they should take the lead in following protocol to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

During the Department of Health’s briefing on Wednesday, DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya reiterated that government officials must lead by example even at events where they are just guests.

"Government officials must really take the lead and must lead by example. As explained clearly by Secretary [Eduardo] Año, if a government official is invited to an event, and he cannot ensure that minimum health standards will be implemented during that event, it will be best if the government official will just decline to attend,” Malaya, also department spokesperson, said.

He pointed out that the public expects government officials to comply with protocols that they themselves issued.

While the question and Malaya did not refer to any specific incident, the statement was made after presidential spokesperson Harry Roque was photographed addressing a huge crowd in a tourism event in Bantayan Island, Cebu. 

In a briefing on Tuesday, Roque also said he “scolded” the crowd and told local officials to end the event, and that it did in "less than an hour." In a previous statement issued Sunday, Roque claimed he had no control over the event as a guest.

DILG probe

Malaya had also pointed out that DILG chief Año has already directed the Philippine National Police to investigate “certain individuals” who were allegedly found to have been in an event that violated health protocols.

Last Sunday, Año said they will launch a fact-finding probe and to look into officials should be made accountable.

The DILG secretary in the same radio interview also called on government officials should just stop activities if health standards will not be complied with “because you cannot just say sorry when you can't control it."

Malaya, for his part, explained that after the PNP investigates the incident, it will submit a recommendation. If it covers a local government official within the DILG’s jurisdiction, the department will make necessary recommendations to the Office of the Ombudsman or the Office of the President.

If the official is outside their jurisdiction, the recommendation will instead be forwarded to the other branch of government.

This is not the first time Roque was criticized for his actions amid enforcement of COVID-19 protocols. Just recently, he drew flak after his photos at a karaoke celebration in Baguio City amid the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses made rounds. He brushed off criticism of his actions, explaining that he was trying to unwind or relax.

Early in November, the Department of Health cautioned against karaoke, explaining that singing may increase the spead of COVID-19.

In the earlier months of the pandemic-induced community quarantine, which has now stretched on for 261 days, Roque earned the public's ire for visiting a dolphin park even as he was reminding Filipinos to stay home.

The DILG then said it found "nothing wrong" with Roque's "side trip" as tourist destinations such as marine parks are allowed to operate at a limited capacity in areas under modified general community quarantine. Zambales is under MGCQ.— Kristine Joy Patag

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