How a plan to go to a resort on Mother’s Day brought trouble to many people

Published May 19, 2021, 3:35 PM

by Joseph Pedrajas

  • Photos and videos of resort guests in a resort in Caloocan City alerted authorities of a mass gathering in an area under MECQ.
  • Guests were asked to leave the resort, and on the way out, three guests mauled a TV crew member, blaming them for the interrupted holiday.
  • Caloocan City Mayor Malapitan revoked the license of the resort and his office has filed a complaint before the city prosecutor’s office for violating the national government’s Omnibus Guidelines against COVID-19.
  • The barangay captain has been placed under preventive suspension, and the sub-station police chief was relieved.
  • Meanwhile, the DOH has ordered the resort guests to have a swab test for COVID-19 and to isolate for 14 days.
(Mark Balmores/Manila Bulletin)

Hundreds of people celebrating Mother’s Day in a resort in Caloocan City could have ended the day happily if only city authorities did not discover the activity – and if the guests themselves did not share their enjoyment through many photos on social media.

Under normal times, they were just a bunch of people enjoying themselves in a resort with a swimming in Barangay 171, Bagumbong. But those were not normal days. NCR-Plus was under Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine. mass gatherings are prohibited. The guidelines of the Inter Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases prohibited from operating venues for recreational activities such as swimming pools and outdoor tourist attractions.The Department of Tourism (DOT) also prohibited the operations of leisure establishments in areas in NCR.

Early news reports placed the crowd at over 200 people but the local government unit (LGU) later said that according to the resort’s guest list there were 500 guests.

That happened on May 9, at the Gubat sa Ciudad Resort, where the festive mood inspired guests to share photos and videos of their celebrations.

From there, trouble spread. Local government authorities and the police, alerted on the mass gathering, immediately conducted an inspection, and found out that reports on social media were true.

Mayor closes resort, guests maul TV crew member

First, Caloocan Mayor Oscar Malapitan ordered the immediate closure of the resort.

On the way out of the resort, three guests vented their ire on a television crew reporting the event. TV5 cameraman Arnel Tugade was rushed to the hospital because of injuries inflicted by the perpetrators who beat him up at around 4 p.m. (The police arrested two of the men but the third managed to escape, a news report said.)

Tugade, who suffered a cut on his nose, said many guests shouted at them, blaming the media for the sudden inspection of the authorities. Apparently, guests were not aware that it was the many posts on social media that invited the authorities to check.

The following day, Mayor Malapitan revoked the resort’s license. His office also prepared to file criminal charges against the management of the resort for its unauthorized operation.

The DOT had issued a statement saying that the resort did not have a DOT accreditation. (The DOT issues accreditation certificates to tourism enterprises to officially recognize their compliance with the minimum public health standards set by the government for the operation of tourism facilities and services such as resorts).

But it’s not just the resort that is facing problems due to the Mother’s Day crowd.

SHUT DOWN – Personnel from Caloocan City government serve closure order on Gubat sa Ciudad Resort in Barangay 171, Bagumbong on Mother’s Day after around 500 guests were found mass gathering in the area and violated health protocols amid COVID-19. (Mark Balmores)

Barangay chairman faces suspension

The chairman of Barangay 171, Bagumbong in Caloocan City is now in hot water after higher officials from the local government also filed a motion for preventive suspension against him.

Romeo Rivera is facing a charge for “gross neglect or dereliction of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service complaints” filed by city health officer Evelyn Cuevas and Business Permits and Licensing Office head Emmanuel Vergara for “failing to implement” the community quarantine guidelines.

President Duterte did not let the violation to the quarantine violation go without a comment. In his usual Monday night broadcast, he said that the barangay captains who fail to enforce the quarantine rules in their areas could be held liable.

Immediately after the discovery of the incident, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said local chief executives (LCEs) will face charges for dereliction of duty if they fail to enforce the prohibition or limitation on mass gatherings in the midst of the pandemic as directed by President Duterte.

Meanwhile, Philippine National Police General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar Eleazar also announced that the Philippine National Police will file a case against the owner and he is “studying if the barangay chairman of the area could be held liable.”

Police chief relieved 

Also in hot water is the commander of the Caloocan City Police Sub-Station 9 who was relieved from his post effective May 11 over the unauthorized operation of the resort in his area of jurisdiction that led to the violation of quarantine measures.

The local government of Caloocan City said Col. Samuel Mina, city police chief, had ordered the relief of Maj. Harold Melgar. He will be replaced by Lt. Ronald Batalla, it added.

Eleazar said investigation is still underway to determine the culpability of the PCP 9 commander in the Gubat sa Ciudad incident.

The resort guests

The Department of Health and the Caloocan government also ordered the guests to have a swab test to detect COVID-19, and to self-isolate for 14 days to prevent the possible spread of the virus.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said this is needed to ensure that there would be no transmission of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Meanwhile, Gubat sa Ciudad Resort remains closed. Its president, its general manager and eight other employees are also facing complaints before the city prosecutor’s office for violating the national government’s Omnibus Guidelines against COVID-19 in relation to R.A. 11332 or the Law on Reporting Communicable Diseases and of City Ordinance No. 0683 S. 2020 or the Social Distancing Ordinance.

Around 100 of the 500 guests were already contact traced while they might also all face charges.