The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) ordered the Philippine National Police - Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP - CIDG) to probe the "flatten the fear" event that was held by a group calling an end to all community quarantines nationwide.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año directed the CIDG to investigate reports of alleged violations of the prohibition on mass gathering, failure to wear face masks, and no physical distancing, among others during the said event.
"Inutusan na po natin ang PNP-CIDG para masusing imbestigahan ang naturang mass gathering kung dapat ba silang managot sa kanilang paglabag sa mga alintuntunin sa panahon ng pandemya,” Año said.
“Maaaring gusto lamang ng grupong ito na makatulong sa pamahalaan para tuluyang masugpo ang pandemya, subalit ang kanilang idinaos na mass gathering at tahasang hindi pagsuot ng face mask ay lubhang delikado hindi lamang para sa kanila kundi pati na rin sa kani-kanilang mga pamilya,” he added.
Año said the probe is also upon the request of the Department of Health.
The DILG chief said members of the Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines recently held a mass gathering dubbed as #Flatten the Fear campaign where many attendees allegedly did not wear face mask as, according to them, they do not need to do so because they are already on prophylaxis and preventive treatment of COVID-19.
According to Año, the group should have discussed first with the government its recommendations instead of holding a mass gathering as "this move undermines the work that has been done for many months by our frontliners."
Earlier reports said the group was set to meet with the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases to discuss its call of ending COVID-19 lockdowns across the country.
The group said the government should also focus on health promotion in communities to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 instead of imposing lockdowns, which impact many livelihoods.
For Año, the group’s call to end all restrictions at this critical time "sends a wrong message to the public and undermines months of hard work by health authorities to flatten the curve and defeat the virus."
He noted that there is still the continuous spread of COVID-19 among communities.
“We wish to remind them that we are not out of the woods yet and that community transmission is on-going. While we have been able to lower our cases, we cannot be complacent and let down our guard since an outbreak may suddenly occur as what we have seen in many countries all over the world,” he said.
“Kapag tuluyan nating tinanggal ang community quarantine na hindi pa natin lubos na napapababa ang mga kaso, maaaring magkaroon ng biglang pagdami ng kaso at magugulat na lang tayo sa biglang dami ng pasyente na ating aasikasuhin,” he added.
At a Laging Handa press briefing, the DILG chief branded the group as not a legitimate one as it is supposedly prescribing medicines that are not authorized by the World Health Organization or the Department of Health.
"That group is not really a legitimate group and I already directed the CIDG to investigate for possible criminal violations or criminal cases that can be filed against these people," he said.
"Ano eh, nagpre-prescribe ka ng gamot na hindi naman authorized ng WHO at saka ng DOH. Mahirap 'yan baka ang tao lalong magkasakit o magkaroon ng side effects," he added.
Año urged the public to listen only to the advice of agencies that are authorized to speak about COVID-19.
"Diyan kayo makinig sa authorities, 'wag sa iba-ibang grupo... baka lalong makasama din," he said.
As of posting time, GMA News Online was trying to reach out to the group for its comments.
So far, the Philippines has recorded a total of 291,789 COVID-19 cases, of which 56,097 are active. — RSJ, GMA News