Snapshots of crowd at Rizal Stadium ‘do not tell the entire story’ — exec
MANILA, Philippines — “A snapshot of a crowd in the baseball stadium does not tell the entire story at all.”
Hatid Tulong program lead convenor Joseph Encabo said this Monday after photos of thousands of locally stranded individuals (LSIs) crammed in the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex — clearly breaking social distancing protocols amid the pandemic — went viral on social media.
During the hearing of the House committee on good government and public accountability, Encabo explained what he called were the “missing frames” in the implementation of the program.
According to Encabo, the secretariat of the technical working group handling the program came up with a text blast message and advisory to all LSIs who pre-registered and pre-enrolled for the program, which seeks to bring stranded individuals back to their respective provinces.
However, those who received the message sent it to other LSIs who also wished to return home to their provinces.
“In effect, the number doubled or even almost tripled at that. We don’t have any choice but to accommodate and cater to the plight of our LSIs,” Encabo told lawmakers.
Encabo said they had a plan with the Manila Police District (MPD) on the LSIs’ flow of entry will be implemented so as to observe health protocols.
However, heavy rain derailed those plans, said Encabo.
“We have diagrams, we have designs of how the people will move and upon entry to the stadium. But again, in unavoidable circumstance, heavy rain poured during that time,” Encabo said.
“The human reaction, people entered the stadium unsupervised and in effect, again, overcrowded and sitting close to each other,” he added.
After the rain, Encabo said that they transferred a number of LSIs to the adjacent stadium of the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex with the help of the Philippine National Police (PNP), the military, and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
“We slowly transferred them because we know that there is an issue on social distancing. As part of the government, we are one with you in observance of that principle or practice,” Encabo said.
“That is why it took time for us to implement because we experienced three to four hours of rain. So once we implemented the transfer of these LSIs, we were confident that we were able to achieve the proper sitting arrangement or distancing of these people,” he added.
Encabo appealed for understanding, saying that at the time of the pandemic, Filipinos should “help each other and heal as one.”
“I know that the photo was publicly disclosed, we were bashed, we were criticized, but again, we might not be on the same boat, but we are on the same storm,” Encabo said.
The LSIs were at the stadium to undergo COVID-19 testing as part of the requirements before they were brought home to their provinces.
Officials were expecting only around 7,500 people to arrive at the stadium from but were surprised when another 2,000 people who were not yet scheduled to travel also arrived there.
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