MANILA - A total of 13 personnel of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) have tested positive for COVID-19, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Saturday.
The PCOO at first confirmed 10 cases Saturday morning and said later in the day that 3 more have been added to the list.
The Palace communications personnel are among Malacañang staffers confirmed to have acquired the virus, with two other personnel of the Palace broadcast office also infected.
"I would like to inform the public that I tested negative for COVID-19 after I underwent a test on Thursday, July 23. However, I regret to confirm that, as of 6:00am today, a total of ten (10) of our personnel in the main office tested positive," Andanar said in a statement.
He conveyed "hopes and prayers for their speedy recovery from the virus."
Andanar did not disclose details on whether or not the PCOO personnel were showing symptoms and at what severity. He said the PCOO is providing assistance to the sick staffers and their families.
"We would like to assure the family of those who have been infected by COVID-19, as well as the general public, that the PCOO is doing all the health and medical protocols prescribed by the government, especially the intensified contact tracing and testing, as part of our due diligence to prevent further transmissions among those who have been in contact with them," he said.
The official said "physical work suspension" at the PCOO would continue indefinitely as disinfection continues at Malacañang's New Executive Building (NEB), which houses the communications office.
PCOO will continue operations with staffers working from home.
"All programs and briefings done at NEB will be undertaken remotely and/or virtually," Andanar said.
"Rest assured that the delivery of essential and timely information to the Filipino public will remain unhampered and unchanged as we have adopted a work-from-home arrangement," he said.
While several PCOO and Radio Television Malacañang (RTVM) staffers have fallen ill with the contagious disease, Palace coverage of President Rodrigo Duterte's State of the Nation Address (SONA) will proceed on Monday, Andanar said.
"The Radio Television-Malacañang (RTVM) will continue on their coverage plan with the deployment of a different team that is not among those who have been in contact with its two COVID-19 positive personnel," he said.
Those to be sent to cover the address will undergo COVID-19 testing to ensure the safety of Duterte and the limited number of guests who will gather physically at the Batasang Pambansa on Monday.
Ang nais lang umano nila ay makauwi sa Dumangas, Iloilo ngunit ito'y naudlot dahil biglang nakansela ang kanilang biyahe.
"July 24 po talaga 'yung biyahe namin. Pero sinabihan na utos daw ng National Task Force na hindi kami papasukin. Unang-una po, nagpalabas na po si [Iloilo] Gov. [Arthur] Defensor [Jr.] ng [executive order] na nagpapayag sa pagtanggap sa mga LSI (locally stranded individual) at OFW (overseas Filipino worker) sa probinsya. Tinawagan na rin namin ang iba't ibang concerned staff para dito, at sinabing open 'yung Iloilo to accept LSI. Hindi namin alam kung ano ang nangyayari," ani Dusaban sa ABS-CBN News.
"Kasi po kung pinatuloy na ang biyahe, eh 'di sana hindi na nagkaganito. Negative na 'yung result namin sa swab test namin, baka dito pa namin makuha ['yung sakit], 'wag naman sana."
Ayon kay Dusaban, may nag-anunsiyo kahapon sa kanila na pauuwiin lahat ng nasa loob ng stadium at uunahin ang mga taga-Mindanao ngayong araw, Hulyo 25.
Dagdag pa niya, ang lahat ng taga-Region 6 (Western Visayas) ay nakatakdang umuwi sa July 26 pero kailangan pang sumailalim sa rapid tests.
Ang mga kumpirmadong nagsara ng borders para sa mga stranded ay ang mga siyudad ng Iloilo at Bacolod.
"Nanghihinayang, nagtataka, poot ang nadama namin kung bakit nakansela ['yung biyahe] kung open naman 'yung borders ng Region 6. Tapos po, we have undergone swab test with a negative result. Ang problema nito sir kung hindi makayanan ng katawan namin at magpopositibo para sa rapid test na gaganapin dito o 'di kaya'y baka dito pa kami magkakasakit," ani Dusaban.
Ibinahagi ni Dusaban ang kaniyang mga kuhang larawan at video sa sitwasyon sa loob ng Rizal Memorial Sports Complex kung saan makikitang dikit-dikit at walang inoobserbahang physical distancing ang mga tao sa loob ng naturang stadium.
Ayon kay Dusaban, dumating sila noong hapon ng Hulyo 24 sa stadium ngunit hanggang ngayong Sabado ng umaga ay mayroon pa ring dumarating na mga stranded stadium.
Kuwento ni Dusaban, plano lang umano niya na dito sa Maynila mag-aral o lumipat ng paaralan at habang naghihintay ng enrollment, nagtrabaho muna siya.
“Dito sana po [ako] mag-aaral o mag transfer [sa Maynila]... Kaso eto ang nangyari nagka-COVID," aniya.
MANILA - Defying a government ban, several groups said Saturday they would push through with protests when President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his 5th State of the Nation Address, as they asserted the "urgent need" to physically gather and express indignation against recent state policies.
Vowing to observe health protocols, groups from several sectors are set to hold a protest dubbed "SONAgkaisa" on University Avenue at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City on Monday, continuing an annual tradition of holding mass actions as an alternative to the president's yearly report to the nation.
This despite a Quezon City ban on protests and directives of the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 against holding mass actions, citing the continuing coronavirus threat.
The protest will push through under the shadow of a recently passed anti-terror law, which government critics have described as "draconian" for provisions they say may be abused to clamp down on legitimate dissent.
Protest leaders said IATF guidelines may not trump Constitutionally people's guaranteed rights: freedom of speech, expression and assembly.
"Gusto nating sabihin sa kanila, ang guidelines ng IATF cannot supersede the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of assembly and expression. Constitutional right natin," said Sister Mary John Mananzan of the Movement Against Tyranny in an online presser.
(We want to tell them, IATF guidelines cannot supersede the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of assembly and expression. That's our constitutional rights.)
"Ang pinagbabawalan ay non-essential (gathering). Our SONA rally is absolutely not non-essential. It is absolutely essential. Kasi napakaimportante na we should express our Constitutional rights sa annual SONA para marinig natin ang boses ng tao," she said.
(What's not allowed are non-essential gatherings. Our SONA rally is absolutely not non-essential. It is absolutely essential. Because it is very important that we should express our Constitutional rights during the annual SONA so we'll hear the voice of the people.)
Organizers said all participants will observe health protocols to prevent COVID-19 transmission, including physical distancing and the use of face masks.
"It is legal and safe," Mananzan said.
Law dean Chel Diokno, among prominent opposition voices, said the IATF's move to bar protests is "prior restraint." He asserted that the Supreme Court has held the primacy of basic freedoms of assembly, speech and expression, and so people have the right to gather in a mass action.
"Basta't mayroon tayong social distancing, basta't suot natin 'yung ating face masks, may karapatan tayong magsama-sama, may karapatan tayong ipaabot sa ating pamahalaan ang ating saloobin at ating mga hinaing," he said.
(As long as we have social distancing, as long as we're wearing masks, we have the right to gather, we have the right to air our sentiments and grievances to government.)
Several issues expected to take prominence during Monday's SONA protests are the recent passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, now facing over a dozen challenges at the Supreme Court, the ABS-CBN shutdown, and government's response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has drawn heavy criticism over its militarized approach and punitive quarantine enforcement.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato Reyes said groups have coordinated with UP Diliman for the protest and that it needs no permit from the local government.
Several protests have been held at the same venue in recent months.
He said government should stop weaponizing IATF's quarantine guidelines to repress protest actions.
"Dapat igalang ng PNP ang karapatang magtipon at kalayaang magpahayag. Madaming dahilan at lubhang kailangan na may physical protest tayo sa Lunes," he said at the presser.
(The Philippine National Police should respect people's right to assembly and freedom of speech. There are many reasons and there is an urgent need to have a physical protest on Monday.)
Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, meanwhile, asserted in a virtual briefing on state TV that mass gatherings are prohibited because of the pandemic.
"Any form of mass gathering is prohibited, kasama na po diyan ‘yong mga (including) mass gatherings and demonstrations so we are simply cascading the decision of the IATF," he said.
“This is in relation to the quarantine, to the health protocols implemented by the government because of the pandemic," he said.
Reyes, meanwhile, cited an irony in the directive, noting how government had gathered together thousands of stranded individuals at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Friday, raising concerns of a contagion.