On Cabugao’s returnee controversy

This is regarding the issue involving Cabugao residents, one of whom was a stroke patient, who returned from outside the province, which was topic of your paper’s editorial last 13 May 2020.

We would have appreciated the courtesy of anyone asking our side before conclusions were made, especially by top provincial honchos like the PNP PD, the PHO head, the DILG PD, even the governor. But, we do not necessarily take it against them. Human nature – or is it only the Pinoy? – is such that we most often fall into the trap of making hasty conclusions and judgments. This is lamentable, but understandable, although in this particular case it may not be brushed aside as an innocuous alibi particularly when those that commit them are the supposedly wise and able leaders upon whom we expect a certain level of acuity.

Indeed, it is no wonder that we are front and center of the issue and yet we were never part of the dialogue. Much the same as when you are absent during a “session,” you become the “pulutan.”

Nonetheless, had they given us the chance to speak, we would have informed them of the following:

Firstly, the returning persons consisted of the “patient,” accompanied by three others. They claim to have secured all necessary papers, but as we shall make clear later, that is never the point of contention.

Secondly, the barangay council was informed that these persons were coming home only on the morning when they were already aboard the ship from Tabaco.

We were not aware of the kind of papers they were bringing with them. We were not aware that the mayor had already issued a certificate of acceptance. We were not aware that the municipal health office already decided that these persons were to be allowed “home quarantine.” UNTIL ONLY THE LAST MINUTE. It turned out that the returning persons also informed the municipal doctor only when they were already aboard the ship, a mere three or so hours before they were to set foot on the island.

Thirdly, it is common knowledge that, as per “protocol,” those coming from outside the province shall first be housed in a public quarantine facility for fourteen days before they are allowed to return home in their barangays.

Fact: Several returnees at that time were housed in a public quarantine facility in Virac, a bunch of them even shouting out on FB how lousy the accommodation was, including the food especially as compared with what they were served in Tabaco (they were first quarantined in Tabaco (they were first quarantined in Tabaco unlike these four persons from Cabugao).

Fact: A similar Cabugaonon returnee (a certain Mr. Aldea) went back into the island in March and he was whisked immediately by authorities direct to the public quarantine facility in Bato. He had to undergo fourteen days quarantine in Tabaco, then another fourteen days in Bato, then another seven days after he was allowed to go home.

Fact: Five people clandestinely came in from Rapu-Rapu by fishing boat in Cabugao and were promptly taken to the Bato facility by the RHU and PNP.

All the while we understood that this is the protocol. Anyone who enters the province will be required fourteen days stay in a public quarantine facility. This is regardless of whether one has “certificates” and “permits.”

But in the case of the patient, Mr. R. Rodriguez, we in the barangay council, in our session prior to his arrival, were actually mulling over the idea that in case he arrived, he may have to be taken to a hospital instead as the public quarantine facility may not be ideal for him.

They arrived on a Sunday and, over our protestations, they were taken to the Catanduanes Doctors Hospital. On that day too, we were able to secure copies of the certificates and documents the four travelers said they acquired.

These documents are here attached for your perusal. They are indeed valid but only as far as their travel is concerned. Yes they are allowed to travel from Naga to Catanduanes, but do these papers mean that when they arrive here they be EXEMPTED from the publicly known protocol cited above?

As you can see, the medical certificates even clearly show that “NO COVID-19 TESTING WAS DONE” in any of the three companions.

In a dialogue that we sought with Mayor Rodulfo and the rural health officer, Dr. Toledana, we asked the doctor if she initiated an ocular inspection of the Rodrigues house prior to deciding that these persons be allowed home quarantine. She said THEY DID NOT BECAUSE OF “PRIVACY” ISSUES.


Joint Administrative Order No. 2020-0001 of the DOH and DILG states:

“…home quarantine is allowed…provided that ALL the requirements in the home care checklist (Annex F) are complied with. The HCW shall assess the household’s capability for home care using the checklist in Annex F. The assessment includes ocular inspection and family interview.”


There was no “ocular inspection” nor was there a “family interview” conducted prior to the decision to allow home quarantine. Is this fair to the constituents of Cabugao? Is this fair to all of Catanduanes?

We acted in good faith, always looking after the welfare of everyone. And in this our war against an invisible and deadly enemy, wouldn’t it be Solomonic if we ERR ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION?

Yes, the right to come home is universal. We completely agree. But in the case of killer COVID-19, this is tempered by the RIGHT OF EVERYONE TO LIFE. Because if we strictly adhere to this freedom of movement within the state territory, then why do we not protest against the checkpoints and the Quarantine Passes and the Travel Passes; the One-Person-Per-Household limit? The curfew? Aren’t these against this universal principle and right? It is as clear as daylight that some of our rights are currently being suspended because of this pandemic.

Besides, it is clear that WE DID NOT CONTEST THEIR FREEDOM TO TRAVEL. We certainly welcome their return. But haven’t we all been witnesses to people returning home undercutting protocols? And the outrage and panic that they drew? Surely anyone in their right mind would never allow this to happen again…especially if you deserve the “Honorable” prefixed in your name as a barangay official.

May I also stress that on a very personal note, it was an agonizing decision for me to hold these persons against their will to go direct to their home upon arrival.

If there’s anyone who empathizes with them, if there’s anyone who would go out of her way to extend support and to accommodate their request, it would be me. I am an Rodriguez. They are family to me. I am also the “ninang” of Mr. and Mrs. Rodriguez in their wedding.

But I am also the mother of my barangay. And much that I care for my family, I also care for all my people. Together with the council. After weighing the gravity of the situation, we believe that we made the most responsible and reasonable judgment call there could possibly be…without fear or favor, and in the face of personal and public backlash.

This pandemic is not only a medical issue. It is also a social issue. People are actually lamenting the sad reality that some rules apply only (and apply with impunity) for the lowly and deprived, while there is a different set of rules for the “learned,” the moneyed and the influential.


Thank you for reaching this part of the letter and taking the time to finish it.

We hope this clears everything.

Yours sincerely,

(Sgd.) Nenita T. Taraya, Ed.D.

Punong Barangay




If people would care to follow through on this case, there were several reports from our Barangay Health Emergency Response Team (BHERT) that at least one of these returnees was seen outside their residence while still under home quarantine.

Indeed, how difficult is it to be a barangay official in these times. To some people, this office is petty. You are left out and ignored, you are mocked, and easily vilified.

Perhaps there are a few barangays which deserve the brickbats. But in Cabugao, not on my watch.

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