THIS article entitled “Bulacan Gov. Daniel Fernando, No Ordinary Man” written by Dr. Dante Ang revolved around an incident that took place on May 8, 2020, when I had to pass through SBMA to bring assistance to a close relative in Bataan who was critically ill and undergoing dialysis. My relative’s family has previously called me to help them in their dire situation as they were on lockdown. I decided to make the trip myself since I am authorized to travel across zones as a local chief executive. I also thought of it as an opportunity to visit and extend help to Bulakenyos stranded in the area and in need of my immediate help. I wish to also point out that it was not the first time that I have extended help to the people of Morong. I consider Morong my second hometown, a place I frequent whenever I feel afflicted or simply in need to regain life balance, and over the years, have made many close friends in the area.
Upon arriving at Tipo Gate at the SBMA, we were advised to stop and was not allowed entry as the area is said to be blocked under ECQ protocol. I requested to speak to SBMA Administrator Wilma Eisma to clarify the matter. We waited for nearly two hours for Ms. Eisma’s response outside the SBMA gate. Finally, over the phone, I respectfully asked for her permission to allow us entry as it is the shortest route to our destination – Morong, Bataan. I also explained to Ms. Eisma that I had to immediately come back the same day to the Provincial Capitol for an important appointment. She refused my request saying she needed to follow certain guidelines of the SBMA as it pertains to the ECQ. It is at that point that I had to call Gen.Carlito G. Galvez (Ret.) of the Inter-Agency Task Force for Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID) to clarify if I had violated the ECQ protocol. I am thankful for Gen. Galvez’s concern and felt that he, himself could not understand why I was refused entry.
I made that trip to Bataan fully aware that I did not violate any law in accordance with the Omnibus Guidelines of the Community Quarantine issued by the IATF. As an APOR (Authorized Person Outside of Residence), I am allowed to travel within and across areas under any form of community quarantine in order to do my duty and render humanitarian service. However, Ms. Eisma pointed out that I needed to coordinate with proper authorities to facilitate passage through SBMA.
It was the first time I came to know of that specific guideline for SBMA. Nevertheless, I gave due respect and abided by Administrator Eisma’s decision and did not pursue my plan to enter SBMA and headed back to Bulacan. In her personal text message to my staff later that day, the administrator even apologized for refusing us entry, which I accepted, thinking that will settle the whole issue.
A week after the incident, the article based on the narrative of Administrator Eisma painted a very different story. I categorically deny that, as the article mentioned, I “savaged” the administrator. Or that I said, “Hindi mo man lamang ako binigyan ng galang. Hindi naman ako ordinaryong tao” (You did not even give me the respect due me. I am not an ordinary man). She was in fact the one who challenged me saying, “Kung gusto mo magsumbong ka sa IATF”. We also received a text message from Administrator Eisma which reads “We need to set a good example.” I was deeply hurt by her insinuation, as I know I did not violate any law and had only the best interest of my distressed relatives and constituents in mind. And though I recall that although I was deeply upset at the time, I never said anything to mean that I am entitled to special treatment just because I am a Governor. What I reiterated to her was that as a local chief executive, I am permitted by law to travel across zones in order to respond to constituents locked down in another province and seeking my help.
The article also mentioned that Ms. Eisma offered to have me escorted from the Tipo gate all the way to the Morong gate. This is a blatant lie. Why would I refuse to be escorted all the way to my destination when that would mean granting my request, therefore, allowing me entry to SBMA and reaching my destination safely.
It saddens me that said article has already cast judgment on my person and placed me in a very bad light. Worst, it is being carelessly being passed around on social media and celebrated by my political detractors. I trust however, that the people of Bulacan know me, and would not judge me based on a biased narrative.
I have spoken to Mr. Dante Ang today (May 20) to explain my side. I thank him for giving me the chance to clarify matters in the spirit of truth and fairness.
More than anything, I owe this explanation to my fellow Bulakeños who have suffered enough from this pandemic and do not deserve this kind of dishonest information. To those who would add fuel to the fire to make this matter worse, I appeal to all of you, let us take politics and personal issues aside, at least in these trying times. There should be no space for divisiveness and misunderstanding. All social institutions – government officers, most of all – should be united under a single purpose: to ensure the health and safety of every Filipino during this pandemic. (RONDA BALITA Online)