DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 07 April) – The holding of the Araw ng Dabaw six-cock derby last month at the New Davao Matina Gallera — the epicenter of infection of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) here — violated no law, Mayor Sara Duterte said in a statement on Monday, following an inquiry her office conducted “into the derby that happened on March 7, 10 and 12.”
But even as “no law was violated” the mayor announced in the same statement the resignation of the chief of the Business Permit and Licensing Division who, she said, could have stopped the conduct of the derby “and further prevented the situation from escalating, but did not vigorously act on it.”
“It was a judgment call that was never made. This person already tendered resignation effective April 4, 2020,” the mayor said, adding, that it should serve as a “reminder for all officials in the City Government to always put forward the general welfare of the residents of the city.”
“I hope that this shall be a lesson that no one will ever forget, especially for those who work to serve Davao City and the Dabawenyos,” the mayor added.
The mayor did not name the official in her statement but until her resignation, the Officer in Charge of the Business Permit and Licensing Division was lawyer Marissa Torentera.
The business permit issued on March 3 for the derby organizers was based on the City Council’s Resolution 0998-20 approved on February 4, granting the request of the New Davao Matina Gallera manager, Dory Du, to hold a “private-sponsored 3-cock derby on March 7, 10 and 12.”
The Araw ng Dabaw six-cock derby (it was not 3-cock but six and was scheduled on March 7, 10, 12 and 14 according to its promotional materials) attracted cockfighting aficionados from all over the country and even abroad, vying for the prize pot of 26 million pesos, 17 million of that for the champion.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 tracked down to the derby have been reported not only in Davao City, but also in Tagum City, Davao del Norte, Digos and Matanao in Davao del Sur, Tubod in Lanao del Norte and on Monday, Midsayap in North Cotabato.
On Tuesday, another case linked to the cockpit cluster was reported in South Cotabato.
The Davao region has 80 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of 8 p.m on April 6, 11 deaths and 22 recoveries. Of the 80, 65 of are in Davao City.
The DOH said 23 of the 80 cases “had exposure to Matina Gallera,” 19 had history of travel from Manila, six from other places while 32 others – at 16 each – are classified as “still under investigation” and “exposed to people who test(ed) positive for COVID-19.”
Duque and Duterte advisories
MindaNews asked the mayor on March 31 why the derby still proceeded as scheduled when Duque had issued an advisory on February 7 and she canceled the Araw ng Dabaw activities on February 10.
Replying over Davao City Disaster Radio, the mayor said she discussed the derby issue with the Sangguniang Panlungsod (City Council) and had asked Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang, chair of the committees on Finance, Ways and Means and Appropriations and Games and Amusement to conduct an investigation and once she gets the report “we can release it and answer the question.”
That same evening, Dayanghirang sent MindaNews a copy of his letter to the mayor, explaining that the request of the cockpit manager 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 succumbed to the virus.
Duque’s February 7 advisory had 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.
Dayanghirang noted that between February 7 — the date of Duque’s advisory – and March 2, there were still huge gatherings, that churches still gathered and “even cockfights continue(d) to operate on Saturdays, Sundays and Holiday.”
The DOH, he said, “did not issue any memo to cancel all these events even one sweeping memo to apply to the entire Philippines.”
“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.
Why did the Council not revoke the February 4 resolution which became the basis for the issuance of a permit to the derby organizers considering Duque’s advisory and the mayor’s order to cancel Araw ng Dabaw activities, MindaNews asked Dayanghirang.
“It’s a private sponsored event while all other activities were allowed in national level,” he told MindaNews on April 1.
The City Council is headed by Vice Mayor Sebastian Duterte, the mayor’s brother.
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.
The mayor said her office found that the City Council approved a resolution on February 4 on the conduct of the derby; that on March 3, the Business Permit and Licensing Division “issued the permit for the derby after all the required documents were duly submitted and complied with” and that on March 8, she issued Guidelines on COVID-19, and while it “did not prohibit the conduct of private events,” it “clearly set the direction of postponing such events.”
She was referring to Guidelines No. 3 issued that day which states under number 6 that “private organizations, business establishments, and other offices are strongly encouraged to postpone non-essential mass gatherings until June 2020.”
The mayor said she instructed the Davao City Police Office on March 12 to “shut down all galleras upon learning about the ongoing derby.” The derby at the cockpit located along the national highway in Matina, started on March 7.
“Based on the documents presented and the timeline covering the community quarantine implemented because of COVID-19, there was no law violated,” she said.
The community quarantine in the city started on March 15, based on Executive Order No. 10 she issued on that day. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)
Timeline of Matina Gallera derby
Here is MindaNews’ timeline of the events related to the six-cock derby on March 7, 10 and 12 at the New Davao Matina Gallera in Davao City, which has become the epicenter of COVID-19.
14 January 2020
Dory Du, manager of New Davao Matina Gallera requests the City Council to hold a “private-sponsored event of 3-cock derby” on March 7, 10 and 12.
City Council unanimously passes Resolution 0998-20, approving the request to conduct a “private-sponsored event of 3-cock derby” on March 7, 10, and 12.
(The three-cock derby was scheduled March 7, 10 and 12. But the promotional materials, including tarpaulins and socmed cards on its Facebook page, stated it was a six-cock derby on March 7, 10, 12 and 14).
Health Secretary Francisco Duque issues advisory on “Concerts and other public events and gatherings” stating 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.”
He 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.
Mayor Sara Duterte orders the cancellation of all activities in the run-up to the 83rd Araw ng Dabaw on March 16, except for the thanksgiving mass on March 1, as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“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),” Duterte said in a press conference.
“Our game plan is to ensure that nobody gets sick,” she added.
Matina Gallera posts a message on Facebook addressed to “Mga Kasabong” (fellow cockfighters)
“Padayon ang Derby on March 7, 10, 12 & 14 for the Araw ng Davao Celebration!!!” (The Derby will proceed as scheduled on March 7, 10, 12 and 14 for the Araw ng Davao celebration), it said.
“500 shares, can we?” it added, and included the link to the New Davao Matina Gallera FB page (the FB page was deactivated in late March)
Davao City’s Business Permit and Licensing Division issues permit for the derby after all the required documents were duly submitted and complied with.
Cockfighting aficionados, breeders and handlers from outside Davao City start arriving in for the March 7, 10, 12 and 14 derby. Some of the cock handlers and support staff spend the night in the cockpit
07 to 08 March
Derby’s first round of eliminations starts at 10 a.m. on March 7 and ends around noon of March 8
The Department of Health (DOH) central office in its 9:30 a.,m. report says the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is six. That number would reach 10 by evening.
Mayor Duterte releases Guidelines No. 3 at 5:05 p.m. stating under number 6 that “private organizations, business establishments, and other offices are strongly encouraged to postpone non-essential mass gatherings until June 2020.”
President Rodrigo Duterte issues Proclamation 922 declaring a state of public health emergency throughout the country.
The State of Public Health Emergency would capacitate government agencies and LGUs (local government units) to “immediately act to prevent loss of life, utilize appropriate resources to implement urgent and critical measures to contain or prevent the spread of COVID-19, mitigate its effects and impact to the community, and prevent serious disruption of the functioning of the government and community.”
The Proclamation also states under Section 4 that “all citizens, residents, tourists and establishment owners are urged to act within the bounds of the law and to comply with the lawful directives and advisories to be issued by appropriate government agencies to prevent further transmission of the COVID-19 and ensure the safety and well-being of all.”
Mayor Duterte releases Guidelines No. 4 at 8 p.m. The call on the private sector under number 6 of Guidelines No. 3 is amended and renumbered 17, which states that “Private Organizations, business establishments, and other offices are strongly encouraged to postpone non-essential mass gatherings until after the Public Health Emergency is lifted or withdrawn.”
The Department of Health (DOH) central office reports the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at 19, ten more than the day before.
Mayor Duterte releases Guidelines No. 5 at 10:54 a.m. “for the City Government of Davao Offices and all other offices in the Government and Private Sectors” on how COVID-19 spreads, citing a link to the United States’ Center for Disease Control.
It summed up the “person-to-person spread” between people “who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).”
It said the spread is “through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes” and how it can spread from “contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.”
10 to 11 March
Derby’s second round of eliminations.
The Department of Health (DOH) central office reports the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at 33 or 14 more than the day before.
The Department of Health (DOH) central office reports the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at 49 or 16 more than the day before.
The Department of Health (DOH) central office reports the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at 52 or three more than the day before.
Mayor Duterte releases Guidelines No. 7 “for the general public and city government offices,” stating that “meetings, conventions, exhibits, conferences, parties, and all other similar social activities must be cancelled until after the public health emergency has been lifted.”
It also states under number 4 that everyone is “advised not to attend masses, prayer meetings, and other faith based and religious gatherings” and under number 5, “everyone is advised to stay at home and refrain from going to public places.”
Mayor Duterte instructs the Davao City Police Office to “shut down all galleras upon learning about the ongoing derby.”
Matina Gallera management announces the mayor’s order to shut down the gallera sometime around 8:30 to 9 p.m.
President Rodrigo Duterte addresses the nation, announces a lockdown of Metro Manila and ban of travel to and from Metro Manila by land, sea and air, effective March 15.
The Department of Health (DOH) central office reports the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at 111, from 10 on March 8.
DOH-Davao reports one confirmed case of COVID-19, a 21-year old with history of travel from UK to Davao via Doha and Manila. She was discharged a week later.
President Rodrigo Duterte issues Proclamation 929 declaring a “state of calamity throughout the Philippines due to coronavirus disease 2019.”
The Davao City government’s FB page posts at 9:40 p.m. on Sunday, March 22 an “urgent announcement” from the Davao Region COVID-19 Task Force calling on everyone who went to the New Davao Matina Gallera from March 6 to 13, and their families and those they were in contact with, to isolate themselves for 14 days.
The announcement also urged those who have symptoms of colds, cough, fever, diarrhea, sore throat, to proceed to the Sta. Ana Health Center in downtown Davao City or Crossing Bayabas Health Center in Toril for assessment.
27 March 2020
After two weeks of giving daily detailed updates on the number of confirmed cases, persons under investigation (PUIs) and persons under monitoring (PUMs) [starting from March 15], the Department of Health (DOH)-Davao releases on March 27 its last detailed statistics on the Davao region, as of 9 a.m.: six confirmed cases including one recovery; 176 persons under investigation, 78 of them admitted, 88 discharged; and 13,825 persons under monitoring, 7,376 of them “under observation” and 6,448 “cleared.”
All six confirmed cases had history of travel to Manila.
Two more confirmed cases are reported by evening, by Mati Mayor Michelle Rabat who gave case histories and even flight details.
The two also had a history of travel to Manila.
Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) which now runs COVID-19 tests independently (no need to send to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Manila) reports 22 new confirmed cases bringing the total cases in the region to 30.
DOH-Davao changes format in reporting, puts map of the region with the number of confirmed cases. No data on PUIs and PUMs. (After a long absence, DOH-Davao posted on its FB page at around 3 p.m. on April 7 data on the PUIs and PUMs: 493 PUIs, 402 of them discharged, 79 admitted and 12 deaths; and 16,413 PUMs, 10,820 of whom have been cleared while 5,593 are under observation).
Afternoon. MindaNews asks Mayor Duterte through DCDR why the derby pushed through as scheduled despite the Duque advisory and her cancellation of Araw ng Dabaw activities.
Mayor says she asked Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang to investigate
Evening. Dayanghirang sends MindaNews a copy of his letter to Duterte explaining they passed the resolution unanimously on February 4, before Duque’s advisory, “the time when there was no COVID-19 pandemic then and no health advisory which made the Council enact the granting of request. “
Mayor Duterte issues statement on findings of the inquiry into the derby
DOH-Davao says in a press statement posted close to 11 p.m. that six of 11 deaths in the region (all in Davao City) are linked to the cockpit derby, correcting an earlier announcement by the head of the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit that all 11 deaths in the region were linked to the derby.
The DOH-Davao has yet to release the histories of Cases 9 to 80.