WHAT is government’s track record in going after and penalizing its officials who violated safety protocols to limit transmission of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) virus? Not good.
That must be why the announcement of an investigation into the separate quarantine protocol violations by presidential spokesperson Harry Roque and Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao was met with skepticism. Comments on social media expressed doubt that the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) probe would lead to anyone’s prosecution.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Sunday, November 29, 2020, that his office will conduct a fact-finding investigation into reported violations of quarantine protocols during recent events attended by Roque and Pacquiao. The event attended by Roque was the opening of the Bantayan Island Airport and the Suroy Suroy Sugbo on Bantayan Island last Friday, November 27.
News photos and those on social media of the Bantayan event showed some of those present not wearing masks and/or face shields and violating the distancing rule of one to two meters from each other.
Año said those responsible will be held liable. “Nananawagan tayo sa lahat, including government officials. Kung meron kayong activities at hindi niyo kayang ipatupad ‘yung health standards, particularly (physical) distancing, stop it. Huwag nyo nang ituloy ‘yan. You cannot just say ‘sorry’. Mahirap ‘yun,” Año said.
(We call on everybody, including government officials: If you cannot enforce health standards, especially physical distancing, during your activities, stop it. Don’t push through with it. You cannot just say ‘sorry’.)
Roque, for his part, said he was merely invited to Bantayan and that local officials who organized the event were themselves surprised by the huge turnout.
Roque and Pacquiao are not the first national officials to be named in reports for violating safety protocols. Major General Debold Sinas, before he became the new PNP chief, faced criticism when police personnel surprised him on his 55th birthday with a “mañanita,” violating the ban on mass gatherings and the physical distancing rule. Senator Koko Pimenetel was also denounced for visiting a hospital to accompany his pregnant wife despite being a person under investigation for Covid-19.
Several business groups expressed “disappointment” over these quarantine violations and reminded government leaders to be role models in having discipline during the health crisis.
Sinas and Pimentel, and now Roque and Pacquiao, are among the high-profile national officials said to have committed such violations. So far, there have been no move to formalize a complaint against them or for them to face the consequences.
Eyes are on Año and the DILG investigation now to see if their efforts will lead to court action and set a precedent for making government officials liable for the violations. Something must come out of the probe or that poor track record of government will continue.