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    More questions still unanswered as DOJ, DILG take over UST bubble probe

    Sep 7, 2020

    MORE questions arose on University of Santo Tomas' controversial Bicol bubble as the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) take over the investigation from the Joint Administrative Order on the resumption of sports and physical activities (Sports JAO).

    The two offices have received the report, which was the collective effort of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Department of Health (DOH), and Games and Amusements Board (GAB), on Monday as they get their chance to thresh out the incident which didn't just rock the dormant sports world but also tore a promising Growling Tigers men's basketball program in shambles.

    Not only that as potential sanctions to UST, former head coach Aldin Ayo, and ex-Institute of Physical Education and Athletics (IPEA) director Fr. Jannel Abogado, OP, are also in play.

    Already clear is the existence of such offseason trainings that the UST team conducted in Capuy, Sorsogon as early as mid-June.

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    Details of the said trainings have been unearthed over the past few weeks, with supposed waivers and video evidence of the said trainings coming to light on social media.

    But it begs to be asked: how did it come to be?

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    Mobility, especially in this time of global COVID-19 pandemic, has been largely limited by the government.

    Manila has been placed under general community quarantine (GCQ) since June, while during the same time frame, Sorsogon was listed under moderate risk classification for modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).

    According to the guidelines, "The movement of persons across areas placed under GCQ or MGCQ shall be permitted, except for leisure purposes."

    How the players made it from Manila to Sorsogon is where the DILG comes in as it will seek if there were any local ordinances violated in staging the said activity.


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    Based on the guidelines for interzonal and intrazonal movement provided by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for Emerging Infectious Diseases, mobility across areas placed under any form of community quarantine are only permitted for select people, namely: 1) health and emergency frontline services personnel; 2) government officials and government frontline personnel; 3) duly-authorized humanitarian assistance actors (HAAs); 4) persons traveling for medical or humanitarian reasons; 5) persons going to the airport for travel abroad; 6) returning or repatriated OFWs, and Overseas Filipinos returning to their places of residence; and 7) persons transported through the efforts of the national government upon conduct of the necessary quarantine protocols and with the concurrence of the receiving LGUs.

    Obviously, the players do not fall in any of these categories.

    Also in question is if the players who participated in the said activity get a clean health declaration, and if they underwent any of the COVID-19 antibodies rapid test or the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test before heading to Sorsogon.

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    Even so, UST pushing through with the trainings is deemed illegal, as per section five of the the guidelines released by the IATF for MGCQ areas released last June 25.

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      Those read:

      - The movement of all persons in areas placed under MGCQ shall be limited to accessing essential goods and services, for work in the offices or industries permitted to operate hereunder, and for other activities permitted under this Section.

      - Any person below twenty-one (21) years old, those who are sixty (60) years old and above, those with immunodeficiency, comorbidity, or other health risks, and pregnant women shall be required to remain in their residences at all times; Provided that all activities and movements allowed under other Sections of these Guidelines for the foregoing persons shall continue to be permitted under MGCQ.

      On top of that, it's clearly stated in the JAO signed last June 27 that non-professional sports, which include collegiate teams, remain barred from training, as it read, "Recreational and Non-Professional Contact Sports and Activities shall be temporarily suspended regardless of risk severity, until an effective vaccine and/or appropriate standard of care for COVID-19 cases is developed."

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      It's also unclear if there's any health and safety officer designated during the Sorsogon sojourn, a clear requirement based on the JAO. These are put in place to: a) Ensure compliance to the minimum public health standards during the conduct of allowed physical activities and establish mechanisms to monitor compliance with the said standards; b) Monitor the health status and symptoms of athletes and personnel; c) Keep records, through minimal contact means, of individuals who used the facilities for the purpose of contact tracing in the event the need for such arises; and d) Refer symptomatic individuals to appropriate health authority/health facilities, as necessary.

      Violations on the IATF-created guidelines will fall on the jurisdiction of the DOJ.

      Whatever the outcome of the investigation is, heads are sure to roll.
      ___

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