NO PHYSICAL DISTANCING. The “Pink Sunday” (Feb. 13, 2022) campaign rally of presidential aspirant, Vice President Leni Robredo, and her running mate, Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, draws a huge crowd at the Quezon Memorial Circle. However, the local government unit said the rally violated safety protocols. (PNA photo by Robert Oswald P. Alfiler)

MANILA – The "Pink Sunday" campaign rally of Vice President Leni Robredo and Senator Francis Pangilinan at the Quezon Memorial Circle on Sunday violated safety protocols “mutually agreed upon with the city government”.

The local government unit (LGU) statement also asked other candidates who will hold events in the city to strictly adhere to agreements outlined in the signed permits granted them.

“Unfortunately, today's Pink Sunday event organized by supporters of Vice President Leni Robredo and Senator Francis (Kiko) Pangilinan resulted in a spillover crowd that violated several restrictions that were mutually agreed upon. While crowd control is a highly complicated aspect of large gatherings, it is a test of discipline for the organizers and attendees to show that their chosen candidates observe the laws of the land,” the statement read.

Event organizers were also encouraged to attend pre-event coordination meetings, which the LGU said “is very important” as the country is still dealing with the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

“Each candidate is assigned the same venue and the same concessions, and these must be observed for everyone's safety. Although NCR (National Capital Region) is currently under the more moderate Alert Level 2, our country is still in the midst of a pandemic,” the statement read further.

The LGU said it is honored and thankful to be chosen as one of the venues for rallies and related political gatherings and is ready to provide assistance to ensure safety and minimize inconvenience to the general public.

Lawyer Barry Gutierrez, Robredo’s spokesperson, apologized for the lapses.

“While the organizers ensured that access to the immediate vicinity of the program proper was limited, and that all attendees were advised to bring vaccination cards and observe health protocols, the sheer number of people that arrived was a challenge, for which we apologize. Rest assured the campaign is taking steps to ensure stricter compliance with all applicable regulations moving forward,” Gutierrez said in a statement.

Robredo’s camp placed crowd estimate at 20,000.

Possible charges

In a radio interview on Sunday, Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año warned charges can be filed against candidates and their supporters for violating health protocols during the campaign period.

He said candidates can be held liable for violating the Omnibus Election Code and along with their supporters, for violating Republic Act 11332 (Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act) and local ordinances.

He stressed candidates face jail terms of up to six years and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

Hindi naman tayo mamimili ng kasuhan na mga kandidato, sympathizers at supporters nila kapag may paglabag (We will not be biased in filing charges against candidates, sympathizers or their supporters if they have any violations),’’ he assured.

Due to the pandemic, aspirants are discouraraged from doing traditional campaign interactions like shaking hands. (PNA)