CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – A pastor is now facing charges for holding worship service attended by about 500 members on Sunday (Apr. 5), allegedly in defiance of the prohibition of mass gatherings and observance of social distancing amid the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Arrested by the Divisoria Police was Pastor Alfred Caslam, 58, married, a resident of Zone 6, Barangay Cugman, this city.
Capt. Sebastian Chua, Divisoria Police Station Commander, said Caslam was caught conducting service at the Word of God Spirit and Life Ministries, Inc., a church the pastor founded, at Capistrano St.
Among the churchgoers were children, the elderly, and persons with disability.
“We warned him last Sunday (March 29) about the policies on social distancing and mass gathering due to the Coronavirus, but it seems he did not heed our warning,” Chua said in a phone interview.
Caslam, he added, has defied the government order prohibiting mass gatherings and disobedience to an agent of a person in authority. He will be facing charges for violation of section 9 (d) of Republic Act 13332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.
The said law prohibits the “non-cooperation of persons and entities that should report and/or respond to notifiable diseases or health events of public concern.” Violators will be imprisoned from one to six months and will be fined not exceeding Php 50,000.
In an interview, Caslam said he was mindful of the city government directive.
“We were told to observe social distancing, which we complied. In fact, we have arranged the seats to ensure there is spacing between churchgoers,” he said.
But he didn’t expect that Sunday morning’s worship rites will be attended by hundreds of his church members.
“I could not bring myself to tell them not to go to church and to drive them away. If I have done that, then my members would no longer attend worship services,” he said.
He is now under the police custody and will be undergoing medical examination before bringing him to the city detention facility today, Apr. 6.
“It was my fault and I take full responsibility for it. I would like to ask for forgiveness. If they can forgive me, I promise that it will not happen again,” Caslam said.
PUMs or PUIs
Meanwhile, Antonio Resma, head of the city’s Regulatory Compliance Board, said he has already endorsed the copy of church members in attendance to the City Health Office (CHO).
“It is now the call of the (CHO) to trace those church members, through the Barangay Health Emergency Response Team,” he said.
The latter, he added, should now determine if those on the list residing in the barangays are either persons under monitoring (PUMs) and persons under investigation (PUIs).
For his part, Chua said he and his team are willing to subject themselves to self-quarantine if any of the church members were declared either PUM or PUI. (davaotoday.com)