It’s all about connections: Inquirer questions handling of Gwyneth Chua case

Inquirer Editorial Cartoon, January 5, 2022.

CHEERS TO the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s editorial “Quarantine and connections” published January 5, 2022 for its critical take on the recent controversy surrounding the case of Gwyneth Chua who violated quarantine restrictions after having tested positive for the virus. 

The editorial pointed out the greater sensitivity shown by authorities in their treatment of Chua in comparison to others who had also broken  lockdown rules and quarantine protocols. 

The editorial noted the “diffidence” with which the case was handled and the “obvious effort to protect the privacy” of Chua, who boasted online of the “connections” she had, which perhaps enabled her reckless conduct.  

The lack of punishment becomes even more offensive when compared to the treatment of previous violators. It likened the delicate treatment of the Chua case by authorities to another violation in 2020: “It’s of a piece with the lack of official censure, the indulgence even, that greeted the birthday “mañanita” thrown last year for then Philippine National Police chief Debold Sinas by his subordinates, when the pandemic was gathering steam.”

The editorial also recalled the harsh treatment of quarantine violators who had not committed the gravity of Chua’s breach of protocols but had suffered worse fates: Darren Peñaredondo of General Trias, Cavite who in 2021 collapsed and died a day after being made to do 300 squats as punishment for violating curfew by being out buying drinking water past 6:00 PM, and retired military officer Winston Ragos who in 2020 was shot and killed in the street by Quezon City police at a checkpoint in a confrontation over quarantine rules, despite bystanders’ pleas that Ragos suffered from mental trauma.

CMFR had cheered news coverage that called out the punitive tendencies of the police in enforcing quarantine measures.

Complaints have been filed against Chua and others involved. The PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), who filed the complaint before the Makati Prosecutor’s Office, is also considering filing a hold departure order to ensure Chua’s attendance during the subsequent trial.

Media should follow up with reports to check whether these considered actions will actually be taken and must inform the public about the outcomes. 

Meanwhile, as President Duterte continues to rely on the police for quarantine enforcement, he has insisted that police be responsible for the enforcement of the protocols. He has stated without justification that it would not be “legally correct” to hold hotels used for isolation and quarantine facilities liable for breaches in protocol, something the president and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra disagree on. 

The media should recognize the inconsistencies in the way public officials, including the President, and other state agents seem to arbitrarily decide on how to treat offenders and apply penalties. The inconsistent observance of rules and attached punishments defies the rule of law. It relies too much on individual discretion – which makes all the difference when, like Chua, one has “connections.”