Violators of mass gathering rules should be punished, DOH says
This photo from the Baguio City Facebook page shows city hall.
Baguio City Facebook page

Violators of mass gathering rules should be punished, DOH says

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - January 27, 2021 - 6:10pm

MANILA, Philippines — Any violators of the government's coronavirus-induced community quarantine should be sanctioned, the Department of Health insisted on Wednesday. 

"We have protocols to follow. If you are caught violating them — because we have an IATF resolution — you should be sanctioned," health spokesperson and undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said, calling on the interior department to ensure the enforcement of health protocols.

This comes after television personalities including Raymond Gutierrez and Tim Yap each drew flak on social media over the past few days after both were caught holding parties amid the coronavirus-induced community quarantines.

Photos taken at both events showed that guests were neither practicing social distancing nor wearing masks. 

Mass gatherings, like parties and mañanita celebrations, for example, are prohibited under the omnibus guidelines for community quarantine set by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases and later approved by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte.

Violations aside, party-goers were 'very compliant'

Speaking in an interview aired over DZBB Super Radyo Wednesday afternoon, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong defended Yap for the party, pointing out that the party-goers were compliant with quarantine rules because they were tested.

"They have many great posts about Baguio City promoting tourism in Baguio City, promoting our triage process telling that it's safe to be in Baguio," he said. 

"The dining area was open space, it's a big dining area so you could really see the visitors since there weren't really that many, and it's a closed group. And when they arrived in Baguio, they [underwent] RT-PCR [tests] and the others took swab test then they went to our triage process, they are very compliant," he also said. 

Magalong, who is also the government's contact tracing czar, admitted in a separate interview over ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo earlier that while he saw protocol breaches during the party, he told Yap not to worry over the investigation. The local chief executive also admitted to being present at the same party. 

Yap also said in an interview with CNN Philippines that the party, which he organized to celebrate his 44th birthday, was put together to support tourism in Baguio City.

'Shoot them dead'

He is not the first high-profile figure to be caught—and defended for—violating quarantine protocols. 

Many others within the Duterte administration—including Sen. Koko Pimentel, Police Gen. Debold Sinas, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, and boxer-turned-senator Manny Pacquiao—have received the same treatment despite blatant and well-documented violations of the same rules. 

RELATED: Whatever happened to: Quarantine violators in Philippine government

Those who were not afforded the same privileges were not so fortunate in the face of the government's heavy-handed yet seemingly selective enforcement of quarantine. 

In April, Duterte in a televised address called on police and military forces to shoot dead those who would attempt to disrupt public order and violate lockdown measures. Thousands have been arrested, and some have even been killed for violations of quarantine. Quarantine violators have also been asked to obey protocol so that police would not need to use Yantok or rattan sticks

As of the health department's latest case bulletin Wednesday afternoon, exactly 518,407 coronavirus cases have been tallied in the country since the virus first emerged in December of 2019. 2,245 new infections were added to the department's running caseload that day, with Baguio City recording the highest addition of the day with 121 new patients in the city. 

It has been 316 days since the enhanced community quarantine was first hoisted over some parts of Luzon, and the Philippines is still under the world's longest quarantine. 

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