Magalong resigns as Contact Tracing Czar but NTF says ‘no’

Marje Pelayo   •   January 29, 2021   •   330

MANILA, Philippines — Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong submitted his resignation as the country’s Contact Tracing Czar after his attendance in a party organized by entertainment personality Tim Yap drew flak for violating some health safety protocols.

Among those seen to have violated the government health restrictions was Magalong’s wife.

In his resignation letter addressed to NTF Chief Implementer and Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez Jr., Magalong admitted to having failed the government for not immediately acting on the violations on the night of the event.

“In hindsight, being a senior officer of the Task Force, I should have done an immediate spot correction of the errors that I witnessed during that time,” he explained.

With this, the Mayor accepted the blame and said he is willing to support should the NTF or the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) conduct an investigation on the incident.

“It pains me to see my family, and my constituents, in anguish over this but I am committed to hold myself accountable and do what is necessary to rectify this misstep.” Magalong said.

His colleagues in the NTF were saddened by Magalong’s sudden decision.

According to Galvez, Magalong’s exit will hugely impact the operations of the NTF.

“Malaking kawalan po sa amin iyon kasi po, 4 po ang haligi po ng ating PDITR, at isa po talaga ang contact tracing lalo na po ngayon sa mga adverse event,” Galvez explained.

“Kaliangan po ang syndromic surveillance at contact tracing and we can vouch for his honor and integrity,” he added.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed that the Task Force is not accepting Magalong’s resignation. 

“Mayor Magalong’s resignation, however, has not been accepted. He continues to enjoy the trust and confidence of the leadership of the National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19,” he said.

For the part of the Department of Health (DOH), Magalong should remain in his position.

“He has helped the contact tracing efforts of the country a lot. Actually yung ating pakikipagtulungan kay Mayor Magalong is on that level na pagka kailangan talaga is tumatawag tayo sa kanya kasi he can really assist us,” said DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.

“We know that the President has that trust and the DOH also trusts Mayor Magalong and we also believe that he should remain in that position,” she added.

The NTF appeals to the public for understanding to give Magalong another chance given his contribution to the country’s COVID-19 response. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Contact tracing czar Magalong tests positive for COVID-19

UNTV News   •   April 3, 2021


Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong

MANILA, Philippines — Baguio City mayor and the country’s contact tracing czar, Benjamin Magalong on Saturday confirmed that he has tested positive for COVID-19.

“It is with a sad note that I would like to inform everyone that as of my RT-PCR test conducted yesterday morning (April 2, 2021), to which my results came out at 4:30pm of the same day, I was tested positive of the Covid-19 virus,” he said in a statement.

He said contact tracing efforts are underway for those he had come into close contact with and advised everybody to observe the minimum health standards.

Magalong added that the news came out as a devastating blow for him and his family.

“The seriousness of this pandemic is something that we should not take for granted.  It is a difficult situation and I don’t want anyone of you to be in this condition as it is emotionally, psychologically and financially difficult for our loved ones to bear,” he said.

He assured however, that despite his current predicament, his team will continue to closely monitor the City’s situation and coordinate with proper authorities the necessary actions to be taken.

“Again, I am calling for everyone’s consideration to further observe protocols.  Let us do this for our family, our friends and everyone we care for,” the official said.


Contact tracing woes persist as budget constraints reduce contract tracers by 35,000 — Tracing Czar

Aileen Cerrudo   •   March 31, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The number of contact tracers has been reduced by 70 percent or around 35,000, according to tracing czar and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong.

Magalong said contact tracing in the country is becoming more challenging as  COVID-19 cases continue to spike while the initiative is struggling with manpower.

“Dati 50,000 tayo, ngayon because of budgetary constraint, bumagsak nalang ng 70 percent.  That reflects 15,000 nalang na contact tracers. So na-o-overwhelm ang ating contact tracers,” he said.

From the previous three to four individuals needed to be traced, or a ratio of one contact tracer is to at least three individuals, it increased to seven to eight individuals per contact tracer.

“Marami pa tayong hindi nako-contact trace. Marami close contacts that are roaming around potentially infecting other people and the local government unit does not know anything about it,” Magalong added.

The tracing czar assured that contact tracing process is enough if done properly by local government units (LGU). He also said the use of StaySafe application will also be helpful in easing contact tracing burdens.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), meanwhile, said it is prepared to use its funds to assist in the country’s contact tracing efforts by hiring individuals who lost their jobs due to the pandemic. AAC (with reports from Rey Pelayo) 



Vaccine czar apologizes for COVID-19 vaccine delay; mulls procuring additional doses from India

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The National Task Force (NTF) Against Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) has apologized to Metro Manila mayors for the delay in the delivery of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines.

Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said there is a difficulty in the global supply and demand of COVID-19 vaccines.

Hindi lang tayo ang nahihirapan kundi pati na rin ang ibang bansa. Very uneven ang distribution ng vaccines globally. 75% ng nababakunahan ngayon ay doon lang sa 10 leading countries (We are not the only ones facing difficulty but other countries as well. The distribution of vaccines globally is very uneven. Around 75% of those being vaccinated are only from 10 leading countries), he said.

Pasensya na po na hindi talaga natin hawak and supply chain ng mga vaccine (We are sorry as we do not hold the supply chain of vaccines), he added.

Amid the delay in the delivery, Galvez said the NTF is looking into going to India for an additional supply of COVID-19 vaccines.

“We are trying our best. Maybe one of these days baka pumunta rin kami ng India (we might also go to India) because 2-3 billion doses will be produced by Serum Institute of India,” according to Galvez.

The vaccine czar also assures that the national government is doing its best to provide safe and sufficient vaccines for Filipinos. -AAC (with reports from Asher Cadapan Jr.)


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