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Baguio chief’s resignation as contact tracing czar rejected

Baguio Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong tendered his resignation as contact-tracing czar after he admitted having attended a party in a Baguio City hotel where some guests flouted COVID-19 health protocols, but his resignation was rejected by officials of the government’s taskforce against the coronavirus, Malacanang said on Friday.

“We confirm that Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong tendered his resignation as the government’s Tracing Czar,” presidential spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. said in a statement.

“Mayor Magalong’s resignation, however, has not been accepted,” Mr. Roque said.

Mr. Magalong’s resignation came following his recent admission that he attended the birthday party of socialite Tim Yap at The Manor hotel in Baguio City where health protocols were violated. He also admitted that his wife, who attended the party with him, had also violated protocols by taking off her mask for a photo op with an actress.

Despite the controversy, Mr. Magalong still has the support and trust of the leadership of the task force leading the country’s pandemic response, said the Palace.

“He continues to enjoy the trust and confidence of the leadership of the National Task Force Against COVID-19,” Mr. Roque said.

“Moving forward, we trust that Mayor Magalong will continue to focus on his significant task of tracing those who have been exposed to the virus for proper processing and subsequent quarantine as we commit our support to him in his said colossal job,” Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador S. Panelo said in a statement on Friday.

“Local contact tracing efforts have greatly improved and have become more efficient following the architecture and methodology that Mayor Magalong designed based on his experience,” he added.

This is not the first time that government officials have faced a public uproar for apparently flouting quarantine rules. To recall, Philippine National Police chief Debold M. Sinas, who attended a birthday gathering or “mañanita” despite a ban on mass gatherings back when he was the police chief of Metro Manila, was publicly defended by President R. Duterte. He was later promoted to lead the PNP, known for arresting civilians for violations of quarantine rules. Both Mr. Roque and Mr. Panelo were seen singing karaoke in public at times when the rules disallowed public gatherings and health authorities had warned against public singing for being one way of spreading the coronavirus. Both said that they followed health protocols while singing. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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