Cagayan de Oro pastor arrested for holding worship service with 500 people
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – An evangelical pastor in Cagayan de Oro was arrested by authorities after allegedly holding church services twice despite the prohibition of mass gatherings amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Pastor Alfred Caslam, founder of Word of God Spirit and Life Ministries, was arrested on Sunday, April 5 by city police after holding a worship service with about 500 members, including children and senior citizens.
Police Station 1 chief Captain Sebastian Chua said that Caslam continued to defy and hold church services despite warnings from law enforcers about mass gatherings in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Chua said that Caslam will be charged for violating Republic Act 11332 that requires persons to cooperate with authorities in the event of notifiable diseases or health events of public concern.
The police and city officials, incuding Antonio Resma of the Regulatory Compliance Board, already warned Caslam after he held a gathering on March 29.
"This is the second time that he violated the rule, we warned him already," Resma said, adding that the list of churchgoers have been sent to the city health department for monitoring.
Caslam argued that they have to conduct worship services because "the doctors in this city [have] already given up on the treatment of coronavirus."
At the police station, however, Caslam claimed that he did not expect the number of people who attended the worship to reach that high, even as he expressed apology for holding the mass.
"We have complied with social distancing policy mandated by the government and arranged their seats with space in between," Caslam said.
Caslam said that he cannot control the crowd of people wanting to attend the mass and could not do anything about it.
Caslam also asked for forgiveness, but authorities here will still be filing appropriate charges against him.
In South Korea, the virus outbreak in Daegu, the country's fourth largest city, was traced to a member of a secretive church accused of failing to cooperate with the government in controlling the epidemic.
In the predominantly Catholic Philippines, church leaders have opted to have online Masses to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. And for the first time in hundreds of years, Catholics will be celebrating Holy Week in virtual churches. – Rappler.com