CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – In the wake of the heated argument between Lt. Col. Lemuel Gonda and City Mayor Oscar Moreno, the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (Cocpo) has appealed to the public on Monday, August 2, not to add fire to the heat as the local government and health authorities are still battling the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
The Cocpo office issued a statement Monday asking residents not to amplify the issue, especially on social media.
“Therefore, instead of condemning/criticizing each other, let’s unite on how to contain the spread of this terrible disease and saving our economy. Each of us has a role to play in overcoming this pandemic. By working together, we can emerge from this stronger and better connected,” said Maj. Evan Viñas, Cocpo spokesperson.
Gonda, Cocpo’s deputy city director for operations, in media interviews on Friday, July 30, criticized Moreno for allegedly failing to implement the recommendations drawn up by the regional interagency task force with regard to the imposition of the “localized lockdown” in areas where there are Covid-19 cases in the city.
The city has been under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) since July 16 until August 7. Prior to this, it was under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) for more than a month when COVID-19 cases were recorded in May. It was placed under ECQ after five cases of the virulent Delta variant were registered among persons who tested positive for COVID-19.
The city health office, however, clarified that the patients who contracted the delta variant have already recovered although medical workers are still conducting contact-tracing.
Gonda criticized the city government for failing to implement a “focused containment” in areas of the city.
Focused containment or localized lockdown refers to the cordoning off of residential blocks that have reported cases of Covid-19 infection by the police and barangay personnel.
The police officer also blamed Moreno for the city’s relaxed border control and for not requiring RT-PCR test result for people entering Cagayan de Oro, and even remarked that its Higala App QR code is “defective.”
“Whatever measure is needed to filter those coming into the city, airport, seaport and bus terminal was done before, but now it is not, even as we are in the ECQ status,” Gonda said.
“When it comes to entry into the city, there are no other measures that came from the city government. They should have required RT-PCR or whatever guidelines. The QR code is also defective, when verified, it is not registered so it is useless, it is not effective,” he added.
Impractical localized lockdown
For his part, Moreno has clarified that the city government has had implemented the focused containment or localized lockdown last year.
“We had had 40 focus containment areas before,” the mayor said.
This year, he said, he did not order its imposition as it was deemed impractical since “the police cannot do 24-hours-a-day monitoring.”
Moreno said the focused containment is “difficult to sustain as this will stretch the manpower and resources of the city, including its police force,” adding that confining COVID-19 cases in isolation areas is a much better response than localized lockdown.
He added that the city is the first local government in the country to institute said measure and it was the decided course of action since Cagayan de Oro was still building its own isolation facilities then.
Viñas has assured that the Philippine National Police and the city’s local government are still in coordination to prevent the spread of the virus.
“The PNP will do its best to assist those who are affected in implementing the strictest lockdown,” he said, adding, “our common enemy is Covid-19, but our enemy is also ‘infodemic’ of misinformation.”
To overcome the coronavirus, Viñas said there is a need to promote facts, hope and solidarity over despair and division.
In a phone interview Monday afternoon, Viñas clarified that Col. Aaron Mandia, city police director, gave Gonda the approval to discuss to the media matters only related to the IATF guidelines.
“The instruction of our CD [city director] is for him to give information on the IATF updates, nothing more, nothing less. There was no instruction for him to give his comments on the issue,” he said.
He added Cocpo’s investigation unit may have already launched an inquiry into the incident, although his office has yet to receive any written order on the action of the city director on Gonda’s statement.
Viñas said Cocpo also has not received a communication from the mayor’s office yet regarding the issue.