December 5, 2023

After his horrifying stint in southern Mindanao as a member of the police Special Action Force that played a role in liberating Marawi from the Maute terrorists, Lt/Col. Maximo Sumeg-ang Jr. is now among the frontliners facing a modern war where the enemy remains invincible.
From fighting terrorists in the war-torn Marawi three years ago, Sumeg-ang, who is currently assigned at the Baguio City Police Office, is one of the leaders of the city’s contact tracing teams going after possible contacts of laboratory confirmed Covid-19 patients.
“It’s a challenging task since all of us have no idea when the virus strikes,” said the junior police officer, who was meritoriously promoted to his current rank due to the role he played in liberating Marawi.
Unknown to many, the Bontoc native police officer has been with Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong, the country’s Covid-19 contact tracing czar, in his travels to various areas in the country to share the city’s efficient contact tracing methodology.
When Magalong, a retired police officer with vast experience in intelligence and operation, brought the idea that contact tracers in Baguio must be in the company of police officers who are knowledgeable in cognitive interviewing, Sumeg-ang was already in the mayor’s mind to be part of the empowered contact tracing teams.
The mayor’s out-of-the-box idea worked and the national government started to recognize Baguio’s best practices in contact tracing methodology that employs cognitive interviewing, data collection and analytical tools.
Sumeg-ang, along with the other members of the contact tracing team, has accompanied Magalong in Cebu in the early part of July when Cebu City was the epicenter of Covid-19 cases. 
In Cebu, Magalong, Sumeg-ang, and the other members of the city’s contact tracing team shared topics ranging from Covid 101: Breaking the Chain; Covid-19 Diagnostics and Methodology; Cognitive Interviewing; and Data Collection and Analytical Tools.
After Cebu, the city’s contact tracing team accompanied Magalong to Regions 3, 4, and the National Capital Region while contact tracing teams from various municipal and provincial local government units in the Cordillera are also seeking for their assistance and expertise.
Sumeg-ang, a member of the Philippine National Police Academy Class of 2006, said that contact tracing teams of various LGUs have expanded the coverage of their activities from being limited to family members of Covid-19 patients to other people who came in close contact with the patients.
Ideally, a contact tracing team should be composed of health care workers such as doctors and nurses as they determine the level of risk of virus transmission, and the police for cognitive interviewing skills and individuals with expertise in processing data gathered with use of technology-based analytical tools.
Baguio City’s contact tracing e-system, a partnership between health workers and law enforcement officers, is considered to be one of the best practices of LGUs in its response against the spread of the Covid-19 infection. – Harley F. Palangchao