BI told to track down foreigner patients of illegal makeshift COVID-19 hospital inside Clark


JUSTICE Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra directed the Bureau of Immigration to coordinate with the police and Pampanga provincial government to track down foreigners who were treated in an unathorized medical facility inside the Clark Freeport Zone. Mr. Guevarra, in a text message, said the patients suspected to have coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), including Chinese and other nationals, “could still be dangerously roaming around.” He added, “If found, they will be brought to legitimate hospitals or quarantine facilities for proper treatment, without prejudice to charging those responsible for this illegal operation.” Freeport manager Clark Development Corp. (CDC), in a statement, said a joint team from the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, Food and Drug Administration, and CDC raided on Tuesday a villa at the Fontana Leisure Park that was turned into a makeshift medical facility for Chinese patients. Clark officials have ordered the closure and lockdown of Fontana. “This illegal activity not only violates the law, but also poses danger to individuals who potentially need medical treatment for the deadly disease. CDC does not and will never tolerate this inside the Clark Freeport,” it said. Arrested during the raid were Ling Hu, 45, the alleged owner, and Seung-Hyun Lee, the alleged pharmacist. CDC said it will also hold accountable the management of Fontana “for allowing this to happen within their property.” — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Religious gatherings still banned in Bangsamoro

RELIGIOUS gatherings in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) are still banned, the local task force against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) announced on Tuesday. On the same day, President Rodrigo R. Duterte declared May 25 a national holiday for the observance of Eid’l Fitr, the festival marking the end of the month-long Ramadan. “Religious gatherings in the BARMM are temporarily suspended until further notice,” the Bangsamoro Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 said in the updated guidelines for the relaxed quarantine rules for the region. “The Bangsamoro Mufti, thru the Regional Darul Ifta, and other religious authorities shall, from time to time, issue guidelines on the conduct of religious practices and ceremonies, particularly those involving mass gatherings and close contacts,” the task force said.

Small gatherings of not more than 10 people, however, are allowed with the observance of health safety protocols such as physical distancing and wearing of face masks. The national guidelines for areas under the less restricted general community quarantine (GCQ) policy discourages communal religious activities, but allows gatherings of up to 10 people. The holiday declaration for the Eid’l Fitr also provides a reminder on public health measures. “The entire Filipino nation should have the full opportunity to join their Muslim brothers and sisters in peace and harmony in the observance and celebration of Eid’l Fitr, subject to existing community quarantine and social distancing measures,” Presidential Proclamation No. 944 reads. In the neighboring region of Zamboanga Peninsula, the Ulama Council of Zamboanga Peninsula and Sabiel Al Muhtadeen Foundation also called for maintaining the suspension of religious gatherings in all mosques in Zamboanga City in consideration of the continued COVID-19 threat. In a joint statement released May 17, the groups said, “In additional the upcoming mass prayer for Salatul Eid will also be cancelled whether it be conducted in the masjid (mosque) or in an open field.” — MSJ