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Gamboa denies PNP ‘party’ in Baguio; officials in city even as event canceled

The Philippine National Police (PNP) denied that its officials held a party in Baguio City, but confirmed that they were in the city even as an event they were scheduled to attend had been canceled.

In a statement on Sunday, PNP chief Police General Archie Gamboa denied Baguio residents' claims that police officials hosted a party in the city.

"There is no truth to the allegations spreading on social media," his statement read.

Gamboa added that security protocols were followed upon entry into the city.

"Mayor Benjie Magalong was well aware of my presence and our activities were duly coordinated," he elaborated.

Gamboa claimed there were only three vehicles in his convoy, fewer than the regular security protocol, and that all individuals involved underwent the triage mandated by the regulations in Baguio City.

"There was no party or concert. It was a dinner that ended at 9:30 p.m.," he said.

"Social distancing was strictly followed and the food was individually catered," added Gamboa.

In a separate radio interview, PNP spokesperson Brigadier General Bernard Banac said officials were in Baguio for an event, but it did not push through as scheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Wala naman. Hindi natuloy gawa nung ang situation nga ay nasa pandemya tayo at mahigpit ang mga health protocols, so hindi na muna itinuloy," he said in an interview on GMA Super Radyo dzBB.

This comes as residents of Baguio City, in online posts, claimed that a live band was heard playing from the Navy Base area where the CPNP Cottage is located.

According to PNP Baguio director Allen Rae Co, the officials were in the city to attend a testimonial parade.

"They were supposed to be given a low-key testimonial parade at PMA [Philippine Military Academy] but as I understand it, in deference to the current situation, the leadership of the DND, AFP, and the honorees themselves decided to forego with the activity," he said in a mobile message to reporters.

He noted, however, that their entry to the city was coordinated and security protocol such as registering online and undergoing triage was followed.

"Ang sa amin, on our part, it was properly coordinated 'yung trip nila dito, and they observed and abided with all our health protocols," he said in a separate phone interview.

In the same interview, Co confirmed that Gamboa's detail was decreased for the trip to Baguio over the weekend.

"Actually, binawasan na nga niya. Meron kasi 'yung Chief PNP security protocol diba. You cannot expect naman, siyempre Chief PNP natin 'yan na he's doing police work diba, na pababayaan lang natin," he said.

"Siyempre marami tayong naba-bust na mga drug gangs, 'yung syndicates. Siyempre kailangan may naka-security talaga sa Chief PNP otherwise, si PNP natin hindi na makakagalaw, pero for this purpose binawasan na niya 'yung pag punta dito, but I can assure you 'yung lahat ng 'yun na kasama niya underwent triage. Nag-register sila online," added Co.

Co also denied that there was a party with a live band as claimed by Baguio locals, but noted that a dinner was held before the curfew hours.

"The dinner was finished way before 10:00 p.m... Wala 'yung band-band," he said.

Co said Gamboa also met with Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong on Sunday to discuss the current situation in the city and the Cordillera region.

"And additionally, the CPNP had a meeting today with Mayor Magalong and PNP officers from Cordillera and Baguio City to be briefed on the peace and order situation prevailing in the region," said Co.

GMA News Online also reached out to Magalong for details on the supposed party that took place, but he deferred comment.

"I am still having that report investigated," he said in a mobile message. He did not elaborate.

To recall, Police Major General Debold Sinas drew flak in May for his "mañanita" birthday celebration amid the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in place during the time.

On Saturday, the PNP reported 42 new cases of the coronavirus disease within its ranks, bringing the total to 2,842. This includes 2,019 recoveries and 13 deaths.

Baguio City, touted as a model city in fighting the pandemic, has implemented strict lockdowns within its borders, with returning residents mandated to comply with requirements before being allowed entry.

In June, San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora apologized after his convoy violated violated security protocols by disregarding a checkpoint into Baguio City. — BM, GMA News