In defense of JPT

By Manuel P. Mejorada 

At the outset, I would like to extend my sincere condolences to the bereaved family of Mrs. Ditas Gil who died a few days ago. Her husband, Atty. Edgar Gil, has been a very close friend for decades now. There were periods when Atty. Edgar and I met together almost every day for camaraderie and beer. I know the passing away of Ditas will leave a vacuum in his life. I feel sad I could be in Iloilo to mourn her demise.

The death of his wife isn’t the only source of sadness, and anxiety, for Atty. Edgar. Their only daughter, Tanya, was diagnosed to be positive for Covid 19 after flying from Manila aboard a private aircraft that was ferrying personal protective equipment and testing kits bound for Iloilo City. Tanya was in despair with knowledge that her mother was dying. Like any daughter, she wanted to fly home despite the enhanced community quarantine and be at her mom’s side during her final moments.

Unfortunately, Tanya was infected with the disease, apparently  without her knowledge. She was asymptomatic. I’m sure that had she suspected being infected, she would not have attempted the trip in the first place. Tanya is a senior executive of a large telecommunications firm in the country. I know she wouldn’t put others at risk knowingly. But then, Covid 19 is a stealthy enemy. It’s not known how she came to be infected. One thing I’m sure about is that Tanya isn’t the type who would unnecessarily expose herself.

The news about Tanya being tested positive upon arrival at the Iloilo International Airport shook the whole of Iloilo City as if it had been sprayed with the virus. All of a sudden, people jumped on the bandwagon to condemn City Mayor Jerry P. Trenas for supposedly breaking the quarantine rules in allowing Tanya to hop aboard the flight. It was the only aircraft that was making the trip that day. I don’t think Mayor Trenas made a bad judgment call in allowing her to fly home.

Did Mayor Trenas play favorites? Did he grant special favors because Tanya happens to be the daughter of Atty. Edgar, the city legal officer? Was it wrong? Did it undermine the very strict rules that Mayor Trenas had imposed?

Let’s stop being hypocrites. First, none of us would have decided differently had we been placed in similar circumstances. Special favor, it is not. When your most trusted co-worker in the LGU asks you to allow his daughter to joyride on the flight because her mom was dying, and it was the only way she could go home, Mayor Trenas decided in the only way he could.

It would have been different had the Mayor chartered a flight using government funds so Tanya could go home. But that wasn’t the case. There was a narrow window of opportunity because of the special flight, and it’s not even a case of special accommodation. It’s not just because of his friendship with Atty. Edgar. It was the humane thing to do.

There’s nothing about the quarantine that makes it absolutely prohibited to travel. In fact, every day, we see hundreds of thousands of people in the entire country defy the quarantine restrictions. The ECQ regulations allow people who need to go to the pharmacy, public market or hospital to get out of their homes. Grief-stricken family members of the dead are allowed to mourn their loss in memorial chapels during the ECQ.

People simply just want to find fault in Mayor Trenas. Again, Tanya’s trip didn’t endanger the public health because a medical checkpoint at the airport put her in quarantine right away. I know this controversy has made the situation more painful for the family than it should be. Instead of Atty. Edgar and Tanya mourning for the demise of Ditas, the family is now facing yet another crisis with the daughter’s illness from the corona virus. The family needs sympathy and comforting more than ever.