Calls for resignation and the arrest of blogger and public official Mocha Uson surfaced when photos of her visiting quarantined overseas Filipino workers in Lian, Batangas was reported online.
The deputy administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) shared the pictures on her social media accounts showing several OFWs convening in one venue despite the current prohibition on holding of mass gatherings in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19.
A nonprofit organization, the Filipino Athletes and Performers Society (FAPS) International, shared a video where Uson talked to the crowd at the Matabungkay Beach Resort.
Practice of social distancing and ban on mass gatherings
Despite the gathering, the video shows someone in the background reminding the participants to practice “social distancing.”
Reports said that Uson visited more than 300 overseas Filipino workers while they were undergoing the mandatory 14-day period of quarantine after being repatriated by the Department of Foreign Affairs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Filipinos noticed that social distancing measures were not thoroughly practiced despite the wearing of face masks.
The Department of Health earlier advised the public to practice social distancing that “refers to maintaining a distance at least one meter away from another person to reduce contact and limit the possible spread of the virus.”
Others also noted that holding mass gatherings is strictly against the guidelines of the enhanced community quarantine.
“@DILGPhilippines (Department of Interior and Local Government) di ba bawal ang crowded events and social gatherings, bakit ‘to napayagan? Wala pang implementation ng social distancing,” a Twitter user said.
“According to the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force), mass gatherings are prohibited in this time of quarantine. Mocha Uson cannot follow simple regulations,” another online user pointed out.
Such observations prompted some Filipinos to share the hashtag #MochaResign and “#ArrestMochaUson” as they call for Uson’s resignation and arrest.
They retweeted photos uploaded by Uson and screengrabs of the event which were shared by blogger and newspaper columnist Tonyo Cruz who called it a “flagrant violation of (the) ECQ.”
On the same day that Uson’s photos surfaced, OWWA released guidelines reminding OFWs of the precautionary measures they should keep in mind while being quarantined.
OFWs are supposed to remain in their designated rooms, observe social distancing measures and refrain from interacting with the locals as much as possible to prevent possible local transmission.
No mass gatherings under ECQ
Batangas is part of the provinces which are currently under an enhanced community quarantine wherein mass gatherings are strictly prohibited to curb the cases of novel coronavirus.
Under the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the lockdown will be lifted on certain areas, including Metro Manila, on May 15.
Regions placed under an enhanced community quarantine are considered high-risk due to the large number of confirmed cases.
As of April 27, 4:00 p.m., Batangas has 91 positive cases. 46 of them are currently admitted to hospitals.
The enhanced community quarantine requires Filipinos to be in “strict home quarantine” at all times. Only one person per household is allowed to go out and buy food and necessities.
Mass public transport is also suspended, as well as onsite work operations.
All forms of mass gatherings, including eucharistic celebrations and wakes, are also prohibited under the enhanced community quarantine.
The measures are done in a bid to restrict movement and travel in the hopes to “flatten the curve” or mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus that has claimed thousands of lives in the Philippines and worldwide.
Interaksyon sought for the Palace’s comment on Uson’s potential violation of quarantine rules but presidential spokesperson Harry Roque refused to comment, citing that Uson is not under the spokesman’s jurisdiction.