MASS GATHERING. A copy of the memorandum sent by DILG-Bacolod City director Ma. Joy Maredith Madayag to DILG-Western Visayas OIC-regional director Juan Jovian Ingeniero, asking for immediate action on the mass gathering at the Art District in Barangay Mandalagan last Nov. 6. Lt. Col. Ariel Pico, public information officer of Bacolod City Police Office, said on Tuesday (Nov. 10, 2020) that the incident was put on police record and referred to the concerned agencies and offices. (Image courtesy of Bacolod City DILG)

BACOLOD CITY – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has called out a supposed mass gathering at the Art District here, prompting the organizer to issue an apology for the incident that happened on the evening of Nov. 6.

Lt. Col. Ariel Pico, public information officer of Bacolod City Police Office, told the Philippine News Agency on Tuesday that the incident was put on police record and referred to the concerned agencies and offices.

“We referred it to the local Inter-Agency Task Force Against Covid-19 and to the City Legal Office. As the case was reported to have involved minors, we also referred it to the Women and Children Protection Desk and the Department of Social Services and Development,” he added.

In a memorandum dated Nov. 7 sent to DILG-Western Visayas OIC-regional director Juan Jovian Ingeniero, DILG-Bacolod City director Ma. Joy Maredith Madayag asked “for immediate action (on) the conduct of mass gathering at the Art District” in Barangay Mandalagan.

“From the video circulating in the social media with #vivaexcon2020, attendees were seen partying without face masks, no social distancing, and consuming alcohol in public,” Madayag said.

She also said the Business Permits and Licensing Office is set to inspect establishments and the Philippine National Police has been directed to intensify its “Oplan Sita”.

“The barangay has been directed to strictly monitor these areas and implement national and local laws and issuances in combating the Covid-19 (coronavirus disease) pandemic,” Madayag added.

In a statement on Monday, the group behind the biennial arts festival VIVA ExCon 2020, whose members did not identify themselves, said what was organized was an exhibition to simulate a live opening for video recording in preparation for the Nov. 8 kick-off of virtual conference VCon 1.

“There was no event, no invitation was sent, and no announcement was made. It was unfortunate that the set attracted the usual Art District crowd and management was not able to control their enthusiasm. However, the organizers did stop the activity after sufficient takes so as to disperse the crowd. Subsequently, Art District remained closed on the following days,” the group said.

Since Bacolod is still under general community quarantine, the staging of large gatherings and drinking alcohol in public are prohibited.

The group behind VIVA Excon apologized for the incident.

“With all humility, the art family extends our apology to the community for the concern raised regarding the Nov. 6 occurrence. We would like to reassure the community that as a matter of habit, Art District conforms to the mandated health protocol and consistently assists those within its reach through the Art Heals fundraising initiative to deliver aid throughout the course of the quarantine,” it added.

The group said it cares about the community, the reason that they decided for the art event to go virtual for the first time in the group's 30 years of existence.

The group furnished copies of the statement to the BPLO and the Bacolod City Emergency Operations Center.

VIVA ExCon or the Visayan Islands Visual Arts Exhibit Conference, the country’s largest and longest running arts festival, was established by Negrense artists, including visual artist Charlie Co, in 1990. (PNA)