Davao City Council unanimously approved permit for derby 3 days before Duque’s advisory to avoid gatherings

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 31 March) – The Davao City Council unanimously approved on February 4 the holding of  the ill-fated derby at the New Davao Matina Gallera that became a hotspot for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), three days before Health Secretary Francisco Duque issued an advisory to “avoid attending, participating in, and organizing events that draw a huge number of attendees.”

The Departhment of Health regional office here said at  least three persons who were at the derby have died from the virus (see other story) while a still undetermined number have been infected by the virus.

New Davao Matina Gallera in Davao City. MindaNews photo by GREGORIO BUENO

Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang, chair of the Finance, Ways and Means and Appropriations and Games and Amusement committees, explained in his March 31  letter to Mayor Sara Duterte, that the request of Dory Du, manager of the New Davao Matina Gallera to hold a  “private-sponsored event of 3-cock derby” was made on January 14 and approved unanimously on February 4 “when there was no COVID-19 pandemic then and no health advisory.”

Du was among those who died after contracting the virus at the cockpit he managed.

On February 7, three days after the approval of the special permit for the derby,  Duque issued an advisory on  “Concerts and Other Public Events and Gatherings,” noting that with the ongoing threat of the spread of COVID-19, the Department of Health “strongly urges the public to avoid attending, participating in, and organizing events that draw a huge number of attendees.”

The DOH also recommended the “cancellation of such planned big events or mass gatherings until further advice” and for the public to “avoid crowded places and continue to practice self-protection measures” to further minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19.

On February 10, Mayor Duterte cancelled all major activities lined for the 83rd Araw ng Dabaw celebration as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Responding to a query of MindaNews on Tuesday afternoon why the derby pushed through despite Duque’s advisory and despite the mayor’s cancellation of  all Araw ng Dabaw activities, Duterte said Dayanghirang was conducting the investigation and once she gets the report “we can release it and answer the question.”

Hours later, Dayanghirang sent the mayor a letter, a copy of which he sent MindaNews.

Dayanghirang  noted that between February  7 — the date of Duque’s advisory – and March 2, there were still huge gatherings such as the assemblies of the Philippine Councilors League  which he chairs, and League of Municipalities of the Philippines in Manila, the National Campus Journalism (he meant the National National Schools Press Conference) in Tuguegarao City, and in Davao City, an  international concert in Davao SMX, “the crowded Pepsi Taste Challenge at SM Lanang Northwing Events Ground, churches still gathered and even cockfights continue(d) to operate on Saturdays, Sundays and Holiday.”

He said there was “no way of stopping them as these do not require special permits from the Council” and that Dy, having met the requirements set for the event, “the council cannot do otherwise but to grant its approval.”

The DOH, he said, “did not issue any memo to cancel all these events even one sweeping memo to apply to the entire Philippines.”

Duque’s February 7 advisory recommended the “cancellation of such planned big events or mass gatherings until further advice”  to prevent the spread of the disease.

Dayanghirang said there was “no way of stopping them,” referring to the gatherings he mentioned in his letter, because “these do not require special permits from the Council.”

The holding of a derby,  however, required a special permit from the City Council and could have been revoked  given Duque’s advisory and the mayor’s cancellation of the Araw ng Dabaw activities.

“It was indeed a stroke of an angel and very commendable on your part when you cancelled all the activities for Araw ng Dabaw,” Dayanghirang said, referring to the mayor.

He said  he hopes the letter would “clear the air on the unanimous approval of the Council,” adding “nobody wishes to be in this invisible war. We do not even know how to win; all we got is powerful prayer to our God that He will bring us out from this obscurity.”

The approved permit was for a three-cock derby but the event as advertised on tarpaulin outside the cockpit was a six-cock derby on March 7, 10, 12 and 14,  with a prize pot of 26 million, 17 million of that for the champion.

In cancelling the Araw ng Dabaw activities on February 10, Mayor Duterte said: “We have no confirmed case in Davao yet but the problem is if several people will get infected. Our hospitals cannot accommodate the hundreds and thousands of people (who might be) getting sick (from the virus).”

“Our game plan is to ensure that nobody gets sick,” she added.

As of 8 p.m. on March 31, the Department of Health Davao region, reported that the number of confirmed cases had reached 59, 47 of these from Davao City. Eight of the 59 died while seven recovered.

Health regional director Annabelle Yumang during a virtual presser on Tuesday afternoon said three of  the six COVID-19 deaths as of that time, shared a history of exposure in the cockpit.

The Department of Health in the Davao region has yet to say how many of the persons under investigation and how many of the 59 confirmed cases, were at the derby.

But at least two who went to the derby —  one from Davao del Norte and form Davao del Sur –  tested positive.

A 67-year old male  from Tubod, Lanao del Norte who traveled here for the derby and is presently admitted at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) in Cagayan de Oro City, also tested positive of the virus . Another patient at the NMCC with history of exposure in the cockpit here tested negative. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)  

READ: At least 3 COVID-19 deaths linked to cockpit derby; at least 270 who attended have come forward