Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Monday announced that Christmas parties will be prohibited in Metro Manila and areas under the general community quarantine, an announcement that left some Filipinos skeptic.
During a meeting last Monday night, Año, also the vice chair of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), said that mayors of the National Capital Region agreed to ban Christmas parties because of the risks of the still raging novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Pero bawal po talaga ang Christmas party. Hindi papayagan ‘yung Christmas party habang ganito po ‘yung ating sitwasyon,” Año said.
He also stated that such decision was in line with the mayors’ collective recommendation on extending GCQ in Metro Manila until December.
Under GCQ, any form of mass gatherings are still prohibited, as stated in the omnibus guidelines of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).
“Mass gatherings such as but not limited to, movie screenings, concerts, sporting events, and other entertainment activities, community assemblies, and non-essential work gatherings shall be prohibited,” the guidelines read.
In an interview with dzMM TeleRadyo on Tuesday, he noted that under GCQ, social parties are still prohibited even if some businesses have allowed to reopen.
“Under GCQ bawal pa ang parties. Ang ating NCR, nagkasundo ‘yung ating mayors na under GCQ muna tayo, magluluwag lang para makasuporta sa ekonomiya pero hindi muna mag-MGCQ. Konting tiis na lang ito,” Año said.
Most infections in the country are still concentrated in Metro Manila. Año also stressed that allowing such holiday activities will only result in a surge of infections.
As of October 20, the Philippines has 360,775 cases where over 180,100 are in NCR.
Of the total cases, 43,443 are active; 310,642 have recovered and 6,690 have died.
The mayors, including the head of Navotas City, have also adjusted the curfew hours from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. in their jurisdictions.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, also spokesperson of the IATF, reiterated the possible extension of GCQ.
“Well, iyan po ang parang nabubuong consensus pero siyempre po hindi ko pupuwedeng pangunahan ‘no,” Roque said.
Received with skepticism
There seemed to be no objection with the policy, citing less expenses and gifts.
“Bawal ang Christmas Party sa Metro Manila. On a positive note, bawas din sa gastos at mga pang-regalo,” one user wrote.
Some comments on social media were, however, filled with doubts on how the local officials would enforce it, particularly among their colleagues.
Others specifically recalled the mañanita or an early birthday serenade for Major General Debold Sinas, chief of the NCR Police Office, last May.
Christmas party ✖️
Mañanita ✔️ pic.twitter.com/CCmCWRiFD5
— Christian Louie Lim (@anongskee) October 20, 2020
They quipped that they would instead use mañanita as their party theme to be allowed gathering.
“Alam kong medyo out-dated na… Pero what if…. Mañanita inspired Christmas Party?” a Twitter user asked.
“What if mañanita ang theme ng Christmas Party namin?” another user asked.
Sinas celebrated his 55th birthday with his subordinates at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City despite strict lockdown protocols against mass gatherings imposed over the region during that time.
Amid the widespread condemnation, including being the subject of international headlines, the high-ranking police official continued to enjoy the trust and confidence of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Last June, the Bureau of Fire Protection Region VI, which is under DILG, also came under fire after some of its personnel held a despedida or going away party in Boracay despite the stringent quarantine measures in place.
One of them later tested positive for COVID-19.
The subsequent month, the local government of Zamboanga del Sur held a “watch party” for Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address, photos of which showed the officials’ failure to observe some minimum health protocols such as wearing face masks and physical distancing.