MANILA (UPDATE) - The Catholic charismatic group El Shaddai is being investigated by authorities for alleged violations of COVID-19 protocols during a recent event in Parañaque City, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Monday.
"Meron tayong ginagawang investigation diyan, joint investigation kasama ang LGU (local government unit) at PNP (Philippine National Police), against these violators," Año, vice chair of the government's task force on COVID-19, told TeleRadyo.
(We are conducting an investigation, a joint investigation together with the LGU and PNP, against these violators.)
The Mike Velarde-led charismatic movement on Saturday held a "Family Appointment" event, that drew scores of people to the House of Prayer in Amvel City Ground in Parañaque City. It was livestreamed on Delta Broadcasting System's YouTube page.
In a Dec. 14 resolution, the Philippines' coronavirus task force said religious gatherings in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) shall be allowed up to 30 percent of the seating capacity.
Religious groups should also strictly observe minimum public health standards such as physical distancing and wearing of face masks.
Parañaque, part of the Philippine capital region, remains under GCQ until the yearend.
Año said they had already sent a letter and invited the event organizer for investigation.
He also bared the El Shaddai allegedly held a gathering before without the approval of Parañaque City officials.
"Wala namang exception sa pandemic na'to. Wala namang sinasabi na, 'Itong religion namin, hindi kami tinatablan ng COVID'," he said.
(No one is exempted from the pandemic. No religion is immune to COVID-19.)
"Hindi pupuwede 'yon. Kapag hindi ka sumunod sa minimum health standards, siguradong may tatamaan."
(That's not allowed. If you don't follow the minimum health standards, someone has to be accountable.)
Meanwhile, El Shaddai denied violating health protocols, saying the participants looked like they were close to each other only because of the angle of the video of the event.
The group also said it was raining during the event and members took out their umbrellas, making it look like there was no proper physical distancing implemented.
The group, likewise, said there were only 1,800 attendees, way below the 6,000 or 30 percent of the 20,000-capacity of the "House of Prayer".
As well, El Shaddai said it cannot stop elderly members of the group from attending the gathering, in response to the Parañaque police's question on why there were senior citizens among the crowd.
The Philippines has recorded 470,650 confirmed COVID-19 cases, as of Monday, including 22,746 active infections, 9,124 deaths, and 438,780 recoveries.
- with a report from Jeck Batallones, ABS-CBN News