Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong submitted Friday an irrevocable resignation as the country’s contact tracing czar but Malacañang said it has been rejected.
“My resignation is irrevocable,” Magalong said in an interview with ABS-CBN, days after he drew flak for attending the Jan. 17 birthday celebration of celebrity Tim Yap at the Manor Hotel at Camp John Hay in Baguio City, where health protocols were violated.
“One of the highlights of public service is good governance. We should look at the accountability of the ranking official that he should lead in implementing what is right. During that particular moment, I think I may have been remiss so it is all about accountability,” he said.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the resignation has been rejected, as the National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 believed in his competence to lead the contact tracing efforts in the country.
“Mayor Magalong’s resignation…has not been accepted. He continues to enjoy the trust and confidence of the leadership of the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19,” Roque said.
When asked by Manila Standard whether the resignation was indeed irrevocable, Roque said: “I really do not know. All I know is the NTF did not accept it.”
As contact tracing czar, Magalong is tasked to focus on advancing skills training for contact tracers.
Magalong came under fire after he confirmed Wednesday that he and his wife attended Yap’s birthday bash.
He also admitted that health protocols such as the wearing of face masks and social distancing were violated during the birthday party.
In a separate statement, NTF Against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said the Jan. 17 incident “does not speak of Mayor Magalong’s true character nor define him as a public servant.”
Galvez said Magalong still has the support of the task force.
“As we face the challenges brought about by the health crisis, Mayor Magalong’s role as contact tracing czar is crucial as we scale up our COVID-19 response and mitigation efforts. In the meantime, we would like to commend and thank Mayor Magalong for the outstanding work he has done as contact tracing czar and a member of the task force,” he said.
In a resignation letter dated Jan. 28, Magalong held himself accountable for his presence at the party.
“I was involved in a recent incident where several lapses in the protocol were committed. In hindsight, being a senior officer of the task force, I should have done an immediate spot correction of the errors that I witnessed during that time,” Magalong wrote. “Much as I have given my best to discharge my duties for the task force, this incident has been a reminder that a higher standard is always expected of me.”
Galvez urged the public to give Magalong the benefit of the doubt.
NTF deputy chief implementer and testing czar Vince Dizon described Magalong as a “rare breed” of public servants.
“It is rare to have a public servant who is humble enough to admit his shortcomings and mistakes,” he said in Filipino.
“His integrity is unquestionable and with that, we find it hard to accept his resignation because we need him in the task force, the country needs him,” Dizon said.
Health Undersecretary and spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said both the President and the DOH trust Magalong.
“We at the Department of Health believe that he should remain in that position. He has helped the contact tracing efforts of the country a lot,” Vergeire said in Filipino.
“In Bontoc and the whole Cordillera Autonomous Region, he was the one who led the contract tracing efforts for this specific variant,” she said of the efforts to trace the source of the more transmissible United Kingdom variant that has somehow spread in Bontoc, Mountain Province.
Magalong was appointed contact tracing czar in July as he was hailed for Baguio’s best practices in contact tracing.
Protocol violators in the controversial birthday affair held at The Manor at Camp John have settled their penalties, the city’s public information office said.
The Manor paid a total of P9,000 (P1,000 for violation of Ord. 45-2020 Face Mask Ordinance; P3,000 for violation of Ord. 46-2020 Physical Distancing Ordinance; P5,000 for violation of Ord. 53-2020 New Normal Operation for Business Establishments).
A total of 33 participants in the event including Mrs. Arlene Magalong, Tim Yap, and artist KC Concepcion have each paid their fines of P1,000 for violation of Ord. 45-2020 and P500 for Ord. 46-2020.
The Manor submitted a commitment to follow health protocols, which is another requirement of the City Permits and Licensing Division before it can renew its business permit.
The citation tickets were issued by the Public Order and Safety Office.