The municipal health office of Norzagaray in Bulacan has placed Barangay Bigte under lockdown after a village councilor, who attended meetings while she was already showing COVID-19 symptoms, tested positive for the virus over the weekend.
However, the field office of the Department of the Interior and Local Government said Barangay Kagawad Rosemarie Capa would not be sanctioned, but only issued a warning, citing what the DILG considered as lack of malice on her part.
In an anonymous complaint sent to Rappler, concerned residents of the barangay said Capa had shown symptoms of COVID-19 as early as August 16, when she attended a barangay council meeting. Colleagues reportedly urged her to get an RT-PCR test and isolate while waiting for the result.
“Sa kabila nito, dumalo pa siya sa iba pang mga pagpupulong buong linggo, kasama na ang naganap noong ika-18 at ika-20 ng Agosto 2021,” the complaint said. (Despite this, she continued attending other meetings the whole week, including those that took place on August 18 and August 20.)
The complaint showed a list of 16 persons who attended the August 20 meeting. It was the last session she attended before her RT-PCR test result came out positive.
DILG field officer Dante Boac confirmed the facts when Rappler followed up on the complaint.
Boac acknowledged two things:
- Under Republic Act 11332 – the law that prescribes procedures on surveillance and response to outbreaks of infectious diseases – a person with symptoms should be isolated even while waiting for laboratory confirmation of their test.
- Colleagues did not expect Capa to attend the August 20 meeting at the meeting since she had already informed the barangay of her symptoms, yet she showed up before getting the result of her test, which later turned out to be positive.
Still, the DILG officer said Capa would face no sanction, except a warning.
“There was no malice…. Hindi niya intention na ganun ang mangyari,” Boac told Rappler. (It was not her intention [to spread the virus].)
“Ni-reprimand at in-inform nila si kagawad sa bagay na ‘yun. That’s as far as it goes. Hindi ito ‘yung tipong ipe-penalize mo, na isu-suspend mo sa kadahilanan na nagkalat siya ng virus. Hindi siya nagkalat, ni-report nga niya eh,” he said.
(Councilor [Capa] was reprimanded and informed about the issue. That’s as far as it goes. This is not the type of case where she will be penalized or suspended for spreading the virus. She did not spread it, in fact she reported it herself.)
Boac said the municipal health office immediately recommended placing the barangay under lockdown as the officials involved who were present at the meeting also went under quarantine.
The municipal council, Boac added, also placed stricter measures and passed a resolution to avoid similar incidents.
Based on the Provincial Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit database, Bulacan has 4,706 active cases, 571 of them new. The province north of Metro Manila has recorded 58,580 cases, including 1,132 deaths, as of Monday, August 30. – Rappler.com
Joann Manabat is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.