The Bohol Provincial Police Office (BPPO) has launched a probe into alleged health protocol violations committed during a Halloween party in Panglao which was attended by the town’s embattled chief executive, Mayor Leonila Montero who was recently slapped with a criminal charge for violating quarantine measures.
BPPO director Col. Joselito Clarito, in a virtual press conference on Friday last week, said they started to look for witnesses who have personal knowledge on the event and who will provide statements which will be used in the filing of appropriate charges against those involved.
“It is for us to gather and identify all possible witnesses who can provide statements lalong-lalo na yung may mga personal knowledge doon sa insidente sa bar and restaurants sa Panglao,” Clarito said.
The recent health protocol issue involving the mayor initially erupted over social media after photos of her attending a Halloween party at a resort in Barangay Tawala on November 2 surfaced.
Based on the photos, Montero and several others including some of her staff members were apparently violating minimum health standards such as physical distancing and wearing of face mask.
According to Clarito, they have already coordinated with the Anti-Cybercrime Unit which however was unable to produce evidence as the photos were deleted before the probe was launched.
“Sad to say, according to the cybercrime unit, deleted na yung mga pictures doon sa Facebook account, so meron silang sinubmit na memo informing me that they cannot be able to testify for the legitimacy of the digital evidences,” he said.
Montero meanwhile has downplayed the allegations as she even thanked those who attended the event which, she said, spurred economic activity in the resort town whose trade and commerce took a heavy hit from the pandemic.
“Ang mga resorts naninkamot na duna silay mga activities, naka-hire intaw’n sila og mga jobless under pandemic, so salamat. Magpadayon g’yud ko diri sa Panglao in uplifting our economic activities,” she said in an LGU-paid radio program on Friday last week.
Montero said she was monitoring resorts that were holding Halloween celebrations in the town when she was photographed without a facemask.
“Ang-ang man pud og mag maskara ko inig kaon, unsaon pag hungit aning pagkaon. Unya pagkuha sa akong mask nakakita sila…daghan gapa-picture,” she said.
The last-term chief executive was also confident that she and her companions were not infected with COVID-19.
“Ngano maguol man mo na ibutang sa FB ang [picture]…Ako wa koy COVID, kamo wa moy COVID, very quick picture unya hawa dayon,” Montero said.
She however did not elaborate if she and those who were with her had recently been tested for the disease which, according to health experts, mostly does not cause symptoms but could still be contagious.
On Thursday last week, the Bohol Inter-Agency Task Force filed a criminal complaint against Montero for breach of health protocols in violation of Provincial Ordinance No. 2020-022.
Montero has been accused of failing to secure authorization from the Office of the Governor and the Bohol Inter-Agency Task Force for her travel to Cebu and back to Bohol in September.
She also allegedly failed to undergo quarantine upon her return to the province. (K. Bagaipo, R. Tutas)