14 barangay officials, organizers to be charged for Cebu City festival parade

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Cebu City (CNN Philippines, June 29) — Fourteen people will be facing criminal charges for holding a religious festival parade in Cebu City while it was under the strictest enhanced community quarantine, a top Central Visayas police officer said on Monday.

Region 7 Police Director Albert Ignatius Ferro said barangay officials and organizers of the Sinulog event held in Sitio Alumnos in Barangay Basak San Nicolas — considered a COVID-19 hotspot with at least 90 confirmed cases — will be slapped with criminal charges.

Ferro said the barangay officials will also face administrative charges which is set to be filed by the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

He also said the officials failed to prevent and stop the incident from happening on June 27.

In a Facebook post, the barangay officials denied any involvement in the said gathering, adding that they did not give their approval for the event.

Village chairman Norman Navarro said the council had summoned the organizers of the parade to question them regarding possible quarantine violations.

According to Ferro, it was the recommendation of the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) to file cases in violation of Republic Act 11332 or the Surveillance and Response to Notifiable Diseases, Epidemics, and Events of Public Health Concerns.

The 14 individuals will also be charged for violating a city ordinance that prohibits mass gatherings, he said.

Apart from the complaints, barangay executives involved in the conduct of the parade will also face show cause orders from DILG, its secretary Eduardo Año said separately.

“We will not tolerate any violation of our quarantine protocols. Those responsible will be made to account,” Año said in a statement, adding that he has also ordered a separate investigation on the case.

National and local government officials on Monday noted that Cebu City is now the epicenter of Philippines' coronavirus cases.

Año said the concentration of COVID-19 cases in the country has shifted from Metro Manila to Cebu City.

As the nationwide tally reached 35,455 on June 28, a total of 4,562 cases were recorded in the Visayas City.

The national government is paying more attention to Cebu City, with President Rodrigo Duterte appointing Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu as the new COVID-19 response chief for Visayas on June 22.

Cimatu brought in hundreds of security troops to enforce the strict stay-at-home measures in the Queen City of the South.

The Department of Health has also ordered the deployment of doctors — including “doctors to the barrios” — to Cebu City to help its battle against the contagion. This came after Cebu nurses appealed for hazard pay due to surge in coronavirus cases.