Baguio City mayor draws flak for attending Tim Yap’s birthday bash

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 27) — Baguio City Mayor and contact tracing czar Benjamin Magalong trended on Twitter after a photo showing he attended Tim Yap’s birthday party in the city despite strict mass gathering rules circulated online.

Magalong confirmed his attendance in a radio interview on Wednesday.

The contact tracing czar said he and his wife were invited to the party and they accepted the invitation to express their gratitude to Yap, an eventologist and club owner, and his companions for promoting Baguio as a safe tourist spot amid the pandemic and buying art pieces made by their local artists before the controversial celebration was held.

Pumunta po kami ng wife ko (My wife and I went to the party) to thank them,” Magalong admitted

Videos and photos that went viral on social media showed Yap and other personalities were not wearing face masks and face shields during the celebration on Jan. 17. Under a Baguio City ordinance, individuals who were caught not wearing face masks in public will have to pay a fine of up to ₱3,000.

The city government has ordered the local hotel, where the party was held, to explain why it should not be sanctioned over the breach in protocols. Netizens questioned this move, with one Twitter user calling it a “joke.”

@MiaMagdalena posted Wednesday: “What a joke! Mayor Magalong gives the hotel 72 hours to explain the party! He can do it himself. He was there!” 

Replying to the tweet of @MiaMagdalena, @BicolanoP asked: “Where is the consistency?” 

Magalong admitted he saw some violations to the safety protocols but pointed out that most of Yap’s guests were “compliant.”

“Meron pa rin (There was still a breach),” the mayor said.

“Even my wife violated it kasi nagtanggal siya (since she took off her face mask and face shield) because of picture taking,” he added, referring to the one where he and his wife were seen posing for a photo with celebrity KC Concepcion during the party. Magalong was the only one wearing a face mask and face shield in the image that circulated online.

Magalong also said he has talked with Yap and assured him “not to worry” about the probe, noting they were “considering” the things the host and his friends have done for Baguio tourism. Yap has apologized for the safety protocols they violated during his party.

READ: Tim Yap apologizes for health protocol breaches in viral birthday party videos

Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. later reminded local chief executives to continue restricting social gatherings especially amid the threat of new COVID-19 variants in the country.

"Dapat 'yung mga mayor natin, dapat very decisive tayo [Our mayors must be very decisive]," he told reporters. "Kailangan let's go back to our precaution on really thinking na talagang irestrict natin 'yung mga social gatherings [We really need to go back to our precaution of restricting social gatherings]."