Palace appeals for public forbearance on restricted religious mass gatherings

Published August 20, 2020, 3:03 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

Malacañang has appealed to the public to bear with government’s restriction on mass gatherings, including religious services, in general community quarantine (GCQ) areas to limit the spread of the coronavirus, saying such policy is “not forever.”

People wearing face masks stand and pray outside an empty Quiapo church, usually filled with devotees during Fridays but now closed due to restrictions to stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Manila on March 27, 2020. – Catholic church authorities closed all its churches in line with the government’s imposed enhanced quarantine as a preventive measure against COVID-19. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

According to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, the public can attend religious services online after the government temporarily limited large gatherings to 10 persons.

He explained that the restriction on mass gathering has been imposed in consultation with local government units after data showed large gatherings have become a source of coronavirus infections.

“Ang ating polisiya dito sa religious gatherings ay nakabase sa kasaysayan at karanasan hindi lang dito sa Pilipinas kundi sa iba’t-ibang mga bansa. Napatunayaan na talagang maraming mga kaso na COVID na bigla na lang nagkahawaaan dahil dito sa mga religious worship (Our policy on religious gatherings is based on history and experience not only in the Philippines but also other countries. It has been proven that there are many infectious during religious worship),” Roque said during his televised briefing Thursday.

“Pupuwede naman na mag-online tayo sa ngayon at obserbahan muna natin yung 10 persons dahil ito naman ay temporary lang (We can go online for now and observe the 10-permit limit because this is just temporary),” he said.

Roque expressed hope that church leaders will cooperate again with the latest restriction on mass gatherings, citing that they cancelled masses after the medical community pleaded for a two-week timeout from the soaring coronavirus infections.

“Nung nanawagan ang mga frontliners na bumalik sa ECQ, unang-una naman ang simbahang Katolika na nagbawal sa gatherings. In the same spirit po, para maiwasan ang pagkalat ng COVID sana pasensya na lang muna. Hindi naman ito forever (When the frontliners appealed for return to ECQ, the Catholic Church was the first to prohibit gatherings. In the same spirit to avoid the spread of COVID, we ask for patience. this is not forever anyway),” he said.

On Wednesday, the Palace announced the restriction on large gatherings, including religious services, in GCQ areas, saying only a gathering of 10 people is allowed.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo however has raised concerns about the latest restriction in religious gatherings under GCQ. Pabillo reportedly claimed that such limited capacity was illogical while restaurants and other business establishments are allowed to operate in bigger capacity.

Roque explained that the government consulted with the local government units about the 10-person capacity in mass gatherings under GCQ. He recognized that the mayors serve in the frontlines in enforcing the health measures to ensure the health and safety of their communities.

“Pasensya na lang muna. Ten days lang naman hanggang August 31 (Have some patience. It’s just 10 days until August 31),” he said.

The President recently placed Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal under GCQ the end of the month after a two-week strict lockdown as requested by the medical community. Other GCQ areas are Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Quezon, Iloilo City, Cebu City, Lapu Lapu City, Mandaue City, Talisay City, Municipalities of Minglanilla and Consolacion in Cebu province.

Last July, the government allowed religious gatherings at 10 percent of the venue’s capacity in areas under GCQ.

In modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) areas, mass gatherings such as movie screenings, concerts, sporting events, religious services, and work conferences, are allowed provided that participants shall be limited to 50% of the seating or venue capacity.