Pacman, Roque off the hook

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    POLICE investigators have cleared Sen. Manny Pacquiao and presidential spokesman Harry Roque of any accountability in the reported violation of physical distancing rules in Batangas and Cebu, respectively, during separate mass gatherings attended by the two.

    Interior Secretary Eduardo Año yesterday said he has tasked the legal department of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to review the PNP investigation report.

    “More or less, I already read the report. The report is rational and I could say satisfying,” said Año.

    Citing the report submitted to him by PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas, Año said the report established there were violations of physical distancing during the events “but they were not really caused directly by the two personalities.”

    Año said the local government units, which organized the events in open areas, actually adopted measures to ensure physical distancing, including the seating arrangements.

    Año said Roque had four speaking engagements in Cebu, three of them went well. The fourth went ugly due to rains that forced people to gather in an area to protect themselves, compromising physical distancing.

    On the case of Pacquiao who distributed food packs to typhoon victims in Batangas, Año said local officials also adopted measures to ensure physical distancing – placed chairs in their places, put up markers and deployed marshals.

    “But when they heard Pacquiao was there, there was crowding of people but they local officials were still able to control it,” he added.

    Año said the PNP recommended that Pacquiao and Roque be reminded to be cautious whenever they attend mass activities in the future to prevent the violation of health protocols.

    “They are reminded, somehow advised, No. 1 to exercise caution, to avoid such kind of incidents…and then No. 2, being government officials, it’s part of our job to enforce (health protocols),” said Año.

    Año said local government officials behind the events could not also be held accountable for the violation of physical distancing.

    Nevertheless, he said the PNP recommended that LGUs come up with a checklist before they hold similar events.

    “If you prepared for 500, you should also be ready if the number people swell to 1,000.

    That’s what should be done if they will be involved in similar events,” said Año.

    Meanwhile, Año said there is no need to investigate Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo who drew flak after a video of him spread on the internet, showing him singing at a Makati City restaurant last week.

    “There is no need to investigate because No. 1, this is just an isolated incident. It’s not karaoke singing. Secretary Panelo already gave his explanation,” said Año. The government has banned public karaoke to avoid further infections.

    Año said Panelo who was already in the restaurant when people asked him to sing.

    Año said Panelo heeded the request and initially sang with his face mask and face shield on. When the people complained they couldn’t properly hear his voice, Panelo removed his facemask, but with his face shield still on, and continued singing.

    Año said physical distancing was observed, it was “just an isolated incident” and he does not think there was transmission of the virus that happened at the restaurant, thus there is no need to probe Panelo.

    Nevertheless, Año said he reminded “the good good secretary, being a high official of the land, that he should exercise (caution) and proper discretion in times like that.”