As COVID-19 cases surge, Iloilo City mayor flip-flops over Dinagyang events

Published January 24, 2022, 5:42 PM

by Tara Yap

ILOILO CITY — Mayor Jerry Treñas is facing harsh criticisms over flip-flopping policies that allowed physical activities for what should have been virtual celebrations of Dinagyang Festival when COVID-19 cases are surging.

Ilonggos were particularly irked when the mayor made a statement Sunday night, January 23, that he was unaware of a food festival at a major shopping area in Mandurriao district.

Two men dressed as Ati warriors of the Dinagyang Festival pose at the Festive Walk of Iloilo Business Park Sunday. There was supposed to be a ban on mass gatherings as COVID-19 cases spiked anew in Iloilo City. (Photo courtesy of Mixocity)

“I ordered the dispersal of the food festival at the Festive Walk. I am very sorry I was not aware of the same. As soon as my attention was called on the gathering, I immediately ordered the dispersal of the people. We still cannot allow any gathering of any kind. Please understand that we are in the brink of being placed under Alert Level 4. I am hoping it will not happen and I am doing everything to prevent it,” said Treñas in a now deleted Facebook post.

Iloilo City currently has more than 4,200 active cases of COVID-19 and it averages hundreds of new cases daily for the past two weeks.

With a policy banning mass gatherings, Treñas himself made several statements assuring the public that most events organized by the Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc. (IFFI) were previously recorded and only live streamed.

However, this was not true as there were actual physical events at various places of the city beginning January 14. There were mass gatherings outside the San Jose Parish Church for the procession of the Santo Niño image and the Eucharistic masses, the drums contest, a mural painting contest, and the coronation night for Miss Iloilo pageant.

City officials, corporate sponsors, performers, and IFFI executives also gathered at the Iloilo Convention Center for private viewing of Dinagyang’s January 23 main event as well as the awarding ceremony.