MANILA – Malacañang believes Baguio City Mayor Benjamin “Benjie” Magalong can be convinced to stay in his concurrent post as the country’s contact tracing czar.
In an interview over DZBB, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque pointed out that Magalong himself said the resignation letter he submitted was not qualified as “irrevocable.”
“Unang-una po, nung nagsumite ng letter si Mayor Magalong wala pong nakasulat doon na it is irrevocable so kaya nga po ang sinabi namin it is subject to acceptance at hindi naman po tinanggap ng National Task Force (NTF) at dun na po tayo tumigil doon (Firstly, when Mayor Magalong submitted his resignation letter it did not state that it was irrevocable so that’s why we said that it is subject to acceptance and the NTF rejected his resignation and that’s where he stopped),” Roque said.
Roque said it was only a matter of time before Magalong will be convinced to stay as head of the country’s contract tracing efforts.
“Sa tingin ko naman mahimashimasan lang si Mayor Magalong at ipagapatuloy niya dahil wala po talaga tayong mahahanap na kapalit ni Mayor MagaLong dahil siya po talaga ang naging awtor ng ating contact tracing formula (I think Mayor Magalong will eventually be convinced and he’ll stay because we won’t be able to find a replacement because he authored the contract tracing formula),” he added.
He said he expects Magalong to make a decision whether to leave or keep his post “in the next few days.”
Last week, Roque said it is “100 percent sure” that President Rodrigo Duterte wants Magalong to stay as contact tracing czar.
“I have heard with my own two ears nothing but words of praises for Mayor Magalong from the President. So, of course, I am sure, I am 100 percent sure the President would want Mayor Magalong to stay on as contact tracing czar,” Roque said.
On Jan. 29, Roque announced that the NTF against the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) rejected the resignation of Magalong who was recently criticized over his attendance at the birthday party of celebrity Tim Yap at The Manor Hotel in Baguio City where guests observed lax protocols.
Magalong earlier admitted that health protocols were violated during the birthday celebration held in Baguio City on Jan. 17.
He denied that he qualified his resignation as irrevocable despite saying in previous interviews that it was.
He said there are people whom he trusted but are now “unleashing social media warriors” to supposedly destroy his reputation following the controversial incident at The Manor hotel.
“As I, a member of IATF and at the same time the Mayor of Baguio forgot to perform my function as crisis manager, that’s the reason why I tendered my resignation, but it was not stated in my letter that it was irrevocable,” Magalong said.
Currently, tourists are allowed to visit Baguio City and book hotel accommodation even if the entire Cordillera region is under general community quarantine (GCQ) this month.
Magalong’s request to exempt Baguio’s tourism operations from restrictions under GCQ was granted by the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).
However, the IATF, in a resolution released on Thursday, said its approval was still subject to the city’s compliance with health and safety protocols and contact-tracing measures. (PNA)