June 6, 2023

An entourage led by the mayor of San Juan City in the National Capital Region that arrived in Baguio last week earned the ire of constituents for blatantly breaching the city’s strict border protocols put in place to contain the transmission of the Covid-19.

The incident has impelled Mayor Benjamin Magalong to reassert the city’s position that no one is exempted from the health and safety protocols when entering the city, regardless of rank and position.

The Philippine National Police has also directed a formal investigation of the incident based on complaints lodged by the city, according to Magalong in a statement on June 8.

The city council also asked the Baguio City Police Office for a full account of the incident in aid of legislation.

Based on the report of BCPO Director Col. Allen Rae Co to the mayor, the group of San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora on board a convoy of six vehicles arrived at the Kennon Road checkpoint around 2:30 p.m. of June 5.

When his group was flagged down for inspection, the driver of the lead vehicle just slowed down and told the checkpoint personnel that he was a part of a convoy then sped off followed by the rest of the vehicles.

The checkpoint personnel radioed the incident to the BCPO tactical operations center and followed Zamora’s group which proceeded to the Baguio Country Club.

At the BCC, the group failed to present medical health clearances and was told to undergo triage examination. Considering that they were already at their destination, medical personnel from the City Health Services Office were dispatched to BCC to set up the triage facility to ensure containment and isolation.

Magalong said based on the facts, Baguio’s health and safety protocols have been violated and the regulatory mechanism of quarantine and check and triage examination was not followed.

Zamora has informed Magalong, who was in Manila that time, about the incident and apologized to him and the people of Baguio for the serious lapse on the part of his police escort.

The San Juan mayor profusely expressed deep regrets that while asleep in his car at the time, the police escort mindlessly took on his own to ignore a standard border protection measure not only in Baguio but in his city as well.

He explained they travelled to Baguio because of his wife’s condition and that the plan was for her to stay in their old family house to rest and recover. 

According to reports, the police escorts were relieved from their posts after the incident. 

Magalong is confident appropriate steps will be made for the breach and ensured that “absolutely no one will be allowed to transgress safety measures put in place to keep everyone from harm.”

Amidst the backlash and indignation from the public, especially residents following the rules, sacrificing, and enduring the imposed measures, Magalong has appealed for greater discernment and restraint in prejudging Zamora and his group.

“We fully understand the public’s displeasure over the reported breach, and we share everyone’s reactions that an incident of this nature done in utter violation of border controls, took place at all. Let us however bear in mind the full appreciation of facts and proper evaluation of evidence at hand are best left to our courts or the rightful quasi-judicial bodies. This is how justice works,” Magalong said.

“In any case, we should not lose sight of the fact that he conveyed his apology. No matter how profuse, that does not mean that he and his group are now freed of any legal consequence for their actions. That again is left for the courts,” he added. – Hanna C. Lacsamana