Duterte wants Magalong to stay as tracing czar

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - February 3, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte wants Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong to remain as the government’s contact tracing czar even though the local chief executive has insisted that his resignation was irrevocable.

“I have heard with my own two ears, nothing but praises for Mayor Magalong from the President... I am 100 percent sure that the President would want Mayor Magalong to stay as contact tracing czar,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing yesterday.

National Task Force on COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said he would convince Magalong to stay.

“He is irreplaceable,” Galvez said.

COVID-19 task force policy deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon said Filipinos need the services of Magalong, whom he described as the “penultimate public servant.”

“Mayor Benjie is very important in our response (efforts). He acknowledged his mistake. All of us commit mistakes. But his contribution to our COVID response is invaluable and irreplaceable,” Dizon said.

Magalong quit as contact tracing czar after he drew flak for attending a party hosted by social media personality Tim Yap at the Manor in Camp John Hay last month after a video and photos showing the guests violating health protocols went viral.

Magalong’s wife was among those shown not wearing face masks and not observing physical distancing.

The mayor admitted that he failed to perform his job. He said he resigned to hold himself accountable and ”do what is necessary to rectify this misstep.”

Magalong’s wife, Yap, actress KC Concepcion and 30 other persons who attended the event were fined P1,500 each.

If the President says so

In an interview on ANC, Magalong expressed willingness to remain as contact tracing czar if the President would ask him personally.

“It is a situation where no one can refuse if the President tells you to stay and perform your job. I cannot refuse the President. Pero hindi naman siguro aabot na kay Presidente, ang dami nang problema ni Presidente. Siguro at the level of Secretary Galvez, makakapag-desisyon na,” he said.

Magalong said he would reiterate during his meeting with Galvez that his resignation was irrevocable, but he would still help in the government’s contact tracing efforts.

“I’m strongly promoting accountability in public service and I came up with the pronouncement that I am resigning irrevocably. I will stick to my word, I will stand by my declaration,” Magalong said.

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