Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong denied he qualified his resignation as contact tracing czar “irrevocable” despite saying it in previous interviews.
The local chief executive in a flag ceremony on Monday said there are people whom he trusted but are now “unleashing social media warriors” to supposedly destroy his reputation following the controversial incident at The Manor hotel.
“People who I trusted are actually my enemies, unleashing the social media warriors, making a lot of speculations without verifying the facts, coming with intriguing comments, destroying the reputation of someone willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of good governance,” Magalong reportedly said.
He drew flak for attending a celebrity birthday party where guests observed lax health protocols in light of an ongoing coronavirus pandemic. His wife was also pictured without a face mask in one of the photos.
“May nag-text sa akin at sinabi ko na andoon ako at tinawagan ko siya at ipinaliwanag ko ang totoong nangyari,” Magalong added.
“I got hit left and right, the incident became something sensational. They started posting (their) own speculations all over social media, over the news. There was a lot (of) misinterpretation, showing the mayor socializing (when) in fact, the truth of the matter is, I was there just to express our heartfelt thanks to someone who is helping Baguio,” he further said.
Magalong added that the reason he quit his national government post was because he “forgot to perform” his function on his job as “crisis manager,” being a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and as a city chief.
‘Make it make sense’
Some social media users found Magalong’s recent remarks confusing since he mentioned in his media interviews last week that his resignation as the country’s contact tracing czar was “irrevocable.”
Make it make sense, Mayor pic.twitter.com/Ncyfch7HPc
— Jeoff (@pekdasen) February 3, 2021
“I wonder how many faces Mayor Magalong has,” another Twitter user wrote in response to his latest revelation.
“After Baguio Mayor Benjie Magalong tendered his ‘irrevocable’ resignation, he said he’ll stay as the contact tracing czar if President Duterte wants him to. Now, he says a ‘traitor’ out to destroy him; word ‘irrevocable’ not included in letter,” a different Filipino commented with a shrugging emoji.
Magalong wrote his resignation letter addressed to COVID-19 response chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. on January 28.
The next day, media outlets reported his resignation.
Magalong in his letter reported by ABS-CBN News last week admitted that “several lapses in protocol were committed” and that he wanted to hold himself “accountable” and “rectify” the misstep he made.
The Palace rejected his resignation and said that Magalong enjoys the “trust and confidence of the leadership of the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19.”
On the same day, broadcast journalist Jeff Canoy reported that Magalong confirmed to him that his decision to step down was “irrevocable” after being rejected by Malacañang.
“Di ba dapat as a member of the NTF, kami dapat nagpapatupad niyan. Kami dapat ang gumagawa ng tama. Leadership by example. Kung ‘di namin kaya ipatupad gaya ng nangyari noong insidente, better na lang siguro na mag-resign na ako because it’s all about accountability,” he said.
Magalong also appeared on ABS-CBN News Channel’s “Headstart” on February 2 where he said that he “would like to reiterate” that his “resignation is irrevocable.”
He, however, added that he would be obliged to stay in his position if President Rodrigo Duterte ordered him to do so.
“It is a situation that no one can refuse if the president tells you to stay and perform your job. I cannot refuse the president,” Magalong said.
On Wednesday, the Palace said that Duterte “would want” him to stay as the contact tracing czar.
The chief executive assigned Magalong to the contact tracing post in July last year after his city was praised for its tracing strategy in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Magalong has likened contact tracing to “investigating a serial criminal offense” and reiterated that it was not just a matter of getting to identify potential cases of COVID-19.
“Kailangan po natin malaman iyong buong kuwento dahil marami po tayong hinahabol dito—paano na-infect itong tao na ito? Saan galing iyong infection? Ang dami po nating dapat alamin and that is the reason why I keep on saying that contact tracing is very similar po sa pag-iimbestiga po ng isang serial criminal offense,” he said before.
Magalong is a former chief of the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management.