Palace radio-TV office closed due to COVID-19 infections

Published July 28, 2020, 8:33 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The Presidential Broadcast Staff-Radio Television Malacañang (PBS-RTVM) Manila office was closed from Tuesday until August 11 after two employees tested positive for the new coronavirus disease. 

Under the lockdown, RTVM executive director Dennis Wilfred Pabalan said no personnel will be allowed to report for work pending the results of the confirmatory tests and further contact tracing.

Exempted from the lockdown were the RTVM personnel assigned for Presidential spokesman Harry Roque’s televised press briefing Tuesday at the New Executive Building (NEB).

“The Presidential Broadcast Staff – Radio Television Malacañang (PBS-RTVM) Manila Office was placed on lockdown beginning July 28, 2020 to August 11, 2020.  Said measure was enforced after 2 employees tested positive for COVID-19 RT-PCR testing and 4 employees tested either IgG+ or IgG+ and IgM+ in rapid anti-body testing by the close of July 27, 2020,” he said.

He said PBS-RTVM follows the “no negative results yielded, no coverage to be rendered” protocol for presidential coverages given the situation of the personnel as primary contacts to COVID-19 positive cases.

“This is to avoid further and unwarranted transmission of the COVID-19 virus not only among its own personnel but the public as well,” he said.

Pabalan also defended his team’s compliance with health protocols after a staff member from Roque’s office alleged that no one from RTVM assisted in Tuesday’s televised press briefing.  The RTVM crew usually provides technical support not only in the President’s activities but also in the press conferences held at the Palace.

Pabalan explained that 15 RTVM personnel actually reported to work to NEB Tuesday morning to set up equipment after Roque issued a memorandum requesting support in the conduct of press briefings. He said his team waited for the rapid testing that was supposed to be provided by Roque’s office.

“When there was none, PCOO (Presidential Communications Operations Office) made coordination with the Presidential Security Group (PSG) for the rapid testing of all 15 personnel,” he said.

“Given the time consumed in coordinating with the PSG and administering of rapid tests plus awaiting the results, the PBS-RTVM personnel got delayed in going back to the NEB for the press briefing,” he said.

A post-SONA briefing to be attended by several Cabinet members was supposed to be held Tuesday but Roque was left to hold the briefing on his own due to limited technical support. The Palace official claimed that he tapped private cameramen to shoot his briefing, which was still aired on state-run People’s Television network.

Pabalan said the OPS backup team was able to broadcast the briefing “using the equipment – camera, audio control and microwave feed – prepared by the PBS-RTVM personnel this morning.”

The PCOO has suspended work at the NEB since July 21 following a surge in infections among its employees. The work suspension will be enforced until further notice.

As of Tuesday, more than 30 infections have been reported at the PCOO proper and its attached agencies.