NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
Panglao Mayor Leonila Montero may face a complaint for violating community quarantine protocols during her travel to Cebu City and back to Bohol in September.
This is based on the recommendation of the Provincial Legal Office as an offshoot of the presentation of the result of the fact-finding by the provincial director of the Philippine National Police (PNP) as head of the Public Safety and Security Cluster of the Bohol Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious.
The result of the fact-finding is contained in the report of Police Provincial Director JoselitoClarito dated October 19, 2020 which was tackled by the BIATF on October 23 and the legal issues arising from the discussion of the report was referred to the PLO.
In response, the PLO came up with a recommendation that charges be filed against Montero for breach of the community quarantine protocols based on Provincial Ordinance 2020-22.
The BIATF approved PLO’s recommendation and is now readying to file the complaint against the mayor.
The PLO found that Montero and company failed to present a medical certificate in coming back to Bohol that their travel outside the province was without travel authority that they breached the protocols set by the BIATF for the 14-day mandatory quarantine upon return to Bohol and before reintegrating with the local communities.
The PLO also found that Montero’s company could not be considered authorized persons outside of their residences (APORs) but locally stranded individuals.
The PLO also asserted that the BIATF guidelines and Provincial Ordinance 2020-22 should be the proper reference and not the national IATF guidelines.
Provincial Ordinance 2020-22 was approved by the SangguniangPanlalawigan on July 14 and signed by the governor on August 5.
Provincial Ordinance 2020-22 amended Provincial Ordinance 2020-007 whereby under Section 8 that enumerates the prohibited acts, there is a new paragraph added thereto which is paragraph F which provides “Locally Stranded Individuals (LSIs), Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs) and all other persons who enter the Bohol shores without complying the necessary documents and standard protocols set by the Bohol IATF”.
This means that the entrance to Bohol by LSIs, ROFs and all other persons “without complying the necessary documents and standard protocols set by the Bohol IATF” is among the prohibited acts.
Under Section 9 of Provincial Ordinance 2020-22, providing for the penalties and fines, there is an addendum under paragraph 8 that says that “the LSIs, ROFs and all other persons who enter the Bohol shores without proper documents and/or without following the standard protocols set by the BIATF shall undergo mandatory 14-day quarantine together with all the persons who are in direct contact with him/her upon arrival in Bohol at the Provincial Quarantine Facility at his/her own expense. Provided that, after completing the 14-day mandatory quarantine, he/she shall pay an administrative fine in the amount of P5,000, otherwise he/she shall be charged for violating this Ordinance in court with the penalty of imprisonment for a period not exceeding 1 year upon conviction”.
Clarito’s insistence that APORs, under DILG guidelines, are exempted from undergoing mandatory quarantine contradicts these provisions of the provincial ordinance.
Based on the result of the fact-finding, Montero and 15 others from the local government unit (LGU) of Panglao travelled to Cebu City at around 11 a.m. on September 14 onboard MBCA Apekop and they came back at around 2:30 p.m. on September 15.
In Montero’s letter dated September 11, 2020, addressed to the Office of the Provincial Governor, the mayor requested “for the issuance of Authority to Travel on September 14-15 to conduct a thorough check of the speed boat procured at Seven Deans Marine Services in Cebu and to meet and officially discuss with dignitaries concerning an issue about informal settlers on Balicasag Island in Panglao”.
A copy of the letter was stamped “received” by the DILG-Panglao, indicating that it was received on September 11 at around 3:05 p.m. But there is no copy of the letter stamped “received” by the Office of the Governor.
Absent showing that the governor issued an authority to travel for the mayor, Montero’s trip to Cebu was bereft of the belief that it was an authorized travel.
The BIATF also raised question on the travel authority issued by the chief of police of Panglao on September 10 when there was yet no request existing prior to such issuance.
The request for a travel authority, if it must be noted, was sent on a later date which is September 11 and addressed to the governor not to the Panglao chief of police or the municipal administrator.
Under the Local Government Code all travels of mayors- -whether for official business or personal purposes- -shall be allowed only when authorized by the governor.
The BIATF clarified that the police may be in the position to issue the travel authority to the mayor’s companions, but that for the mayor must come from the governor.
The BIATF also noted that the municipal administrator’s certification for the mayor indicates as being based on compliance with the policies prescribed by the ‘Outbound Locally Stranded Individuals’ (OLSI) Program of the IATF when she was supposedly getting clearance to travel as an APOR.
A document also indicates that a five-year-old child was among those given certification to travel as an APOR, but the manifesto excludes the name of the child. This was not included in Clarito’s report.
Clarito’s report states that “on September 10, 2020, PLt. Amelito M. Melloria, acting chief of police and the commander of MJTF CV Shield of Panglao, Bohol issued a Travel Authority granting, Mayor Montero and several others to pass the established Quarantine Control Points (QCPs)/checkpoints, seaports and airports from point of origin to point of destination and back to point of origin. Further, the said travel authority indicated the following: Date of Travel – September 13, 2020 or any available schedule; Place of Origin – Panglao, Bohol; Place of Destination – Cebu City; Vessel – any available; and Remarks – Authorized Person Outside Residence (APOR)”.
Clarito also stated that the mayor sent an official letter to the office of the provincial governor on September 11, requesting for the issuance of authority to travel to Cebu on September 14-15 “to conduct a thorough check of the speed boat procured at Seven Deans Marine Services in Cebu and to meet and officially discuss with dignitaries concerning an issue about informal settlers at Balicasag Island” in Panglao.
“The said letter-request was received by the office of the Provincial Governor on September 11, 2020 at around 3:05 in the afternoon (ANNEX G). With the same date, the following documents were issued to Mayor Montero, to wit: Certification by Alejandro A. Arbutante, Municipal Administrator of Panglao stipulating that Mayor Montero has complied with the necessary requirements for her to leave the Municipality of Panglao under the strict policies prescribed by the ‘Outbound Locally Stranded Individuals’ (OLSI) Program of the Inter-Agency Task Force against Covid-19; Medical Clearance Certification issued by Annie Grace D. Villanueva, MD, Rural Health Physician of Panglao stipulating that Mayor Montero is not a contact, suspect, probable nor a confirmed Covid-19 case prior to her examination on September 11, 2020 at 11:04 in the morning; and Certification issued by Jose L. Arbitrario, Punong Barangay of Danao, Panglao providing that Mayor Montero is a resident of Purok 5, Danao, Panglao, Bohol. Further, it averred that Mayor Montero is neither a PUM or a PUI,” the report stated.
It is further stated in the report that the municipal administrator of Panglao “issued a Notice of Availability to Travel. The said notice stipulated that Mayor Montero and entourage will depart for Cebu on official business”.
However, PDRRMO Head Anthony Damalerio and the lawyers at the Provincial Legal Office sitting in the BIATF scrutinized ANNEX G, considering that there was no record at the Governor’s Office that such letter-request was actually received, neither on such date and time; thus, the reason there was no travel authority issued as a response, for how could a response be made by the governor when such request never came to his knowledge.
It turned out that ANNEX G or the letter-request of the mayor was stamped “received” on September 11 at 3:05 p.m. by the DILG office in Panglao.
BREACH OF 14-DAY QUARANTINE
Clarito’s fact-finding report also shows that “on September 14-18, 2020, Mayor Montero and company have undergone quarantine/isolation at Amanzara Resort…”; and “on September 18-27, 2020, Mayor Montero and company have undergone quarantine/isolation at Hennan Resort Alona Beach”.
However, Montero participated in the coastal clean-up and in Doljo, Panglao, and attended the opening of Modala Resort on September 18. This was not also included in Clarito’s report.
On this, the BIATF found that the quarantine protocol was breached because the mayor and company managed to transfer from one resort to another within such period that they are supposed to stay put.
It was not also clear in Clarito’s report how many of them had undergone an RT-PCR test and what certain dates the swab samples were taken.
It was the representative of the Provincial Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (PESU) that supplied the details available which confirmed that the mayor and some of her company submitted swab samples on Sept. 21.
What Clarito included in his report was that on Sept. 28, Dr. Villanueva issued a certification that Montero tested negative of Covid-19 based on the PCR result released on Sept. 23.
Dr. Kazan Baluyot explained that it is important to be keen when the swab samples were taken, considering that it should be timed at the height of viral load for the virus in the body to be detected in the PCR test to avoid getting a false negative test result.
Details pertaining to his concern were not reflected in Clarito’s report.