Gov’t clueless on whereabouts of Filipino participants to tabligh in Malaysia

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 20 March) – The Ministry of Health of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) admitted Wednesday they have difficulty locating the Filipino participants to a tabligh ijitimak, a religious gathering, in Malaysia where several attendees were reportedly infected by the novel coronavirus disease or Covid-19.

The Grand Mosque in Bacolod-Kalawi town in Lanao del Sur on 28 July 2017, before the 12 noon sambayang. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

“Most of them would not want to admit that they went to Malaysia because they fear that if they identify themselves, they would suffer social stigma,” BARMM Health Minister Safrullah Dipatuan said in Filipino during a press briefing here.

Dipatuan warned their refusal to declare their travel history and submit to anti-Covid-19 measures could bring more harm to their loved ones and their communities.

A total of 215 Filipino Muslims attended the tabligh held from February 27 to March 1 at the Jamek Sri Petaling mosque near Kuala Lumpur, 115 from Lanao del Sur including Marawi City, and 100 from Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and other parts of the country.

Two of the Filipino Muslims who attended the gathering were found positive of Covid-19. One of them died in Marawi on Tuesday.

Three others were classified as Persons Under Investigation (PUI).

On Thursday, Malaymail reported that 513 Malaysians who attended the gathering tested positive of the virus.

“Out of the 4,986 samples taken from the 10,553 checked so far, 513 of the tabligh participants tested positive for Covid-19, 2,559 tested negative, while the test results for 1,990 samples are still pending,” the report citing Malaysia’s Health Ministry as source said.

The tabligh drew around 16,000 participants from different countries, 14,500 of them Malaysians.

BARMM’s IATF spokesperson and Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Asnin Pendatun told the same press briefing that they “already have some names” of the 215 persons but they did not know if those individuals had submitted themselves to quarantine procedures.

Zul Qarneyn Abas, BARMM Deputy Health Minister, said the participants have no travel records with the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos and the Department of Foreign Affairs because they went to Malaysia via Tawi-Tawi.

Dipatuan said that aside from the police and military they are considering asking the Moro Islamic Liberation Front base commands to help locate the tabligh participants. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)