Presidential bets suspend political gatherings as COVID-19 cases spike

Presidential bets suspend political gatherings as COVID-19 cases spike
People with luggage start arriving at the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) in Parañaque City before dawn on Dec. 23, 2021 to catch their buses as they head to their respective provinces early to avoid the influx of passengers for the Christmas weekend.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 10:30 a.m., Jan. 4) — Presidential aspirants said they will postpone holding physical gatherings amid the alarming rise of COVID-19 cases in the country and the risk of Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Partido Federal ng Pilipinas bet Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and Sen. Manny Pacquiao said in separate statements they are suspending political gatherings amid the spike in COVID-19 cases.

Marcos’ spokesperson Vice Rodriguez said all activities of UniTeam, the former senator's tandem with Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, are deferred starting Monday until January 15.

He said public appearances, sorties and assemblies of the Marcos and Duterte-Carpio will also be postponed.

"However, campaign preparations and other administrative functions of the UniTeam will proceed non-stop through work-from-home arrangement and virtual meetings of the concerned staffers and campaign personnel," Rodriguez added.

Marcos has also ordered the closure of their campaign headquarters after more than 20 of the staff tested positive on antigen tests conducted on Monday.

The temporary closure of the headquarters will also pave the way for complete disinfection of the facility, Rodriguez added.

They also urged supporters to "exercise self-restraint and avoid holding unilateral campaign/political activities that might result in the further surge of COVID-19 cases in their areas."

Pacquiao, in a statement reported by CNN Philippines, for his part stressed the need for cooperation to lower the number of active COVID-19 cases in the country.

"We need to allow the government to take all the appropriate steps to address the rising number of COVID cases," he said.

"For this, I have advised my team to temporarily suspend all political gatherings and focus more on organizing zoom meetings until this surge is managed by our health authorities," Pacquiao added.

Pacquiao however said their relief operations for communities affected by Typhoon Odette will continue.

Robredo halts campaign operations

Presidential bet Vice President Leni Robredo, meanwhile, said operations of their campaign headquarters will also be suspended for the safety of volunteers and staff due to the rising cases of COVID-19 in the country.

However, they will continue providing assistance to those who were affected by Typhoon Odette.

The Office of the Vice President's Bayanihan E-Konsulta will also remain open while its Swab Cab will resume operations this week as part of their Covid response.

"Let us protect our loved ones and help lessen the cases of COVID-19 by our sacrifice," Robredo said in a statement.

Moreno ‘listening tour’ on hold

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, Aksyon Demokratiko standard-bearer, said he will be focusing on pandemic response first and is not yet thinking of resuming his “listening tour” where he goes to different regions to talk to communities.

“What I want right now is when you get infected, you can recover immediately. We want you to have facilities, we want you to have doctors,” he was quoted in Filipino in a statement released by his campaign team on Tuesday.

“We are focused on the pandemic first, this surge. Because we need to address this immediately so we are readying our city and our citizens. That (Listerning Tour) will come later,” the Manila mayor added.

Moreno also appealed to the public to immediately get vaccinated, as he noted that majority of the 544 active COVID-19 cases in Manila are those without jabs. 

Metro Manila reverted to stricter restrictions under Alert Level 3 from January 3 to 15 following a sharp increase in new infections detected in the past week.  — Kristine Joy Patag

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