DILG, IATF  urged to probe discrimination vs NorthCot frontliner

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 04 July) – North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco has urged the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to act on the reported discrimination against a COVID-19 frontliner of the provincial government whose house was cordoned off with yellow “caution” barricade tapes even as the result of his test had not been released.

The frontliner, whom Catamco identified as Junmar Gonzales of Barangay Lanao here, heads the province’s Task Force Sagip Stranded North Cotabatenos and was  exposed to another frontliner who tested positive of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).  His test results released on July 2 showed he was negative of the virus.

The Task Force has rescued at least 6,000 locally-stranded individuals from high-risk areas in Metro Manila, Luzon, Cebu, Iloilo, and Davao.

Gonzales, according to reports, manifested flu-like symptoms and was placed under quarantine at the University of Southern Mindanao Hospital, the only COVID-19 treatment facility in North Cotabato that the Department of Health has accredited.

But even before the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center in Cotabato City could release results of his Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction test, officials of  Barangay Lanao immediately placed yellow or “caution”  barricade tapes around the fence and gate of their house.

Discrimination, harassment

Gonzales’ wife  Lala cried discrimination, took photos of the yellow line and posted it online through her Facebook account, which went viral among netizens in the province.

North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco wants an investigation on the act of barangay officials to cordon off the house of a provincial frontliner who was exposed to a COVID_19 positive colleague and was awaiting results of his RT-PCR test. The frontliner tested negative. Photo courtesy of Lala Lu.

Governor Catamco said  Gonzales did not deserve the harsh treatment from anybody, especially from government officials.

In an interview, Barangay Lanao chair Alberto Canonoy admitted having cordoned off the area on orders of the mayor.

On June 29, Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista issued Executive  Order No. 58, series of 2020, which placed a portion of Barangay Lanao and Barangay Amas under “focused containment.”

A portion of Barangay Amas, where the 9th confirmed Covid-19 case in North Cotabato lives, was also placed under “focused containment” status.

Evangelista lifted the order on July 3.

The result of Gonzales’ test came out on July 2. He tested negative of the virus

Catamco said Gonzales and his family became subjects of discrimination and harassment when their house was cordoned off by barangay officials.

“This must stop,” she stressed.

To spare her other frontliners from being subjected to unfair treatment, Catamco urged the DILG and the provincial legal office to take appropriate measures against those responsible.

She also set to report the incident to the regional and national Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).

Breach of protocol

Philbert Malaluan,  Provincial Board Member, Chair of the Committee on Health, and concurrent manager of the Emergency Operations Center of the provincial IATF,  urged not only the DILG and the national IATF but the provincial government and North Cotabato to investigate what happened as he called for “justice to be served.”

Malaluan shared the post of Gonzales’ wife, showing photographs of their cordoned off house “even if there was no positive confirmed resident inside. The cordoning was done without permission as his wife was still inside the house when the cordoning happened.

Malaluan said what the barangay officials did was a breach of protocol.

“We feel vindicated. Inasmuch as we are relieved that he tested negative, we are appalled by the discrimination against our frontliner,” he said. (Malu C. Manar / MindaNews)