Did the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) really hold a party in Baguio City?
Since Saturday, rumors have been circulating that PNP chief Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa held a party for his friends and classmates at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) as a farewell gathering for his retirement on September 2.
The rumors also became a topic in the social media after some netizens posted a text message purportedly from local residents which stated that there was a live band performance at the official residence of the PNP located at the Navy Base in Baguio City on Friday night.
“There is no truth to the allegations spreading on social media,” Gamboa told the Manila Bulletin in an interview on Sunday.
While he confirmed that there was a small gathering and that food was served for those who attended, Gamboa stressed that it was not as big as what was claimed in Facebook and other social media platforms.
In fact, he said that he even limited the number of his security personnel as he was aware of the strict implementation of the quarantine rules as ordered by Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong.
He and his security personnel, according to Gamboa, underwent a triage which is a mandatory medical check being observed by Baguio City local government for incoming residents and visitors as part of the strict measures to prevent the entry and spread of the coronavirus.
“There was no party or concert. It was a dinner that ended at 9:30 p.m. Social distancing was strictly followed and the food was individually catered,” said Gamboa.
The Chief PNP added that as part of the anti-COVID protocols, he and his security personnel opted to stay at Chief PNP Cottage located at the Navy Base.
“Mayor Benjie Magalong was well aware of my presence and our activities were duly coordinated,” said Gamboa.
As a proof, Gamboa said that Mayor Magalong even had a meeting with him along with some PNP officials wherein the peace and order situation at the entire Cordillera Administrative Region was discussed.
Why it is a big deal
The PNP has been at the forefront of the strict implementation of the minimum health safety standard that includes mandatory wearing of face masks and observance of physical distancing.
Policemen are deployed at the borders of cities and municipalities to check on all travelers. Policemen are also tasked to conduct regular patrol in the communities to enforce the minimum health safety standard protocols.
Based on the guidelines issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of the Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-MEID), mass gatherings that include birthday celebration, fiesta and parties are strictly prohibited.
Mass gathering is also limited to a maximum of 10 people who are also mandated to wear face masks and observe physical distancing.
Based on the data of the Joint Task Force COVID Shield, more than 320,000 people were warned, fined and charged for violation of quarantine rules.
Critics and other people have been accusing the government of double standard in the implementation of the quarantine protocols as authorities are reportedly letting some high-ranking government officials unpunished for violations of security protocols like Sen. Koko Pimentel and President Duterte’s staunch supporter Mocha Uson who also holds a government position.
Early in May at the height of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), Metro Manila police chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas was accused of holding a birthday party at the headquarters of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) in Taguig City.
The incident became controversial after personnel of the NCRPO-Public Information Office posted photos of policemen greeting Sinas on his birthday, including photos of food being served in the party.
Sinas denied the allegation, saying that it was not a birthday party but a mañanita which he had no control over since it was a surprise early morning greeting to commanders by his subordinates.
But following the controversy, the PIO staff of Sinas virtually deactivated the Viber Group with reporters where the photos of the celebration were posted, and created a new one with selected reporters whom they deem as not adversarial.
The word mañanita is now being used by critics and protesters as a symbol of double standard in the implementation of the quarantine rules.