The city government of Makati enforced a closure order, appealable within 15 days – against the Berjaya Hotel Thursday after a returning Filipino woman from the United States, who later tested positive for COVID-19, skipped quarantine at the establishment and went to a party.
This as a member of the family who had a dinner party with the Filipina traveler, Gwyneth Chua, said they are considering filing a complaint against her.
Carlos Laurel, whose siblings and cousins tested positive for COVID after the dinner, described Chua’s actions as “irresponsible” as he claimed she was not invited to the gathering by the clan.
“We are talking about filing a complaint. Our main concern at this point is to attend to those who are sick and plan the best action with regards to our family’s position,” he said in a television interview.
Laurel claimed Chua was at the gathering because her boyfriend, who was a friend of his cousin, brought her there.
“None of us [invited her]. I or my cousins did not personally invite her to the dinner,” Laurel said.
Of the 17 people who attended the dinner, 13 were members of the clan, two were dates, and the remaining two were Chua and her boyfriend.
On Tuesday, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group already filed a complaint against Chua for alleged violation of the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.
The Berjaya Hotel, where Chua was supposed to undergo quarantine, was ordered closed by Makati Mayor Abigail Binay and the Department of Tourism for violating health and safety protocols set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
But the Berjaya Makati Hotel said the closure order “is without legal basis.”
“For one, the DOT order is not yet final as the hotel will appeal it within the 15-day period it is given. Meanwhile, the suspension is not in effect. Secondly, there is no law that penalizes a hotel for not reporting a guest who jumps quarantine.”
“Thirdly, we must be accorded due process and be allowed to explain before any penalty is imposed. We have not been given our day in court by the Makati City Hall.”
The hotel added that if it closes down operations immediately, its quarantine guests will be displaced.
“We have 18 guests who have tested positive and who have yet to be pulled out by the Bureau of Quarantine, and 80 who are in the middle of their quarantine. We also have around 20 quarantine guests per week coming in and have paid in advance. The inconvenience to the public is incalculable, unnecessary and preventable.”
The government also penalized the establishment with a fine of P13,200.
But Makati City chief legal officer and spokesperson Michael Arthur Camina said prior to its closure, Berjaya was already advised to coordinate with the Bureau of Quarantine for the transfer of its remaining guests to other facilities.
Camina said: “Berjaya should not skirt the issue. Its negligence has been established and admitted. Laws have been broken, and the welfare and safety of the community has been put at risk.”
“The management should not play the aggrieved victim.”
As this developed, the DOT also asked the National Bureau of Investigation for a list of hotels that have allegedly refused to cooperate on their probe of quarantine skippers.
In a statement, the DOT said those found to have made violations or have failed to comply with the mandatory protocols may face “criminal penalties” such as fines or imprisonment or both.
In addition, these hotels may face “administrative penalties” such as suspension or revocation of their DOT accreditation depending on the gravity of the offense.