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SOAD: Face masks not required to curb backlash

By Allianah Bolotaulo | August 31, 2023

Wearing face masks at the Hibalag grounds was up to “personal prerogative,” according to Abe Cadeliña, head of Silliman University (SU) Student Organizations and Activities Division (SOAD) 

His statement clarifies the health protocols he approved, which were expected to be followed by students and visitors of the Hibalag Booth Festival that was held Aug. 19 to 29 at the Ravello Field.

While the protocols stated that “all guests are expected to wear face masks at all times, except when eating or drinking,” Cadeliña said that making face masks a requirement would “welcome negative comments later on from the public.”

“You know how the public is… they criticize intensely,” he added.

Cadeliña also said that the Silliman University Student Government’s (SUSG) health and safety protocols were made out of “prudence” and placing standards.

“We are not only trying to protect the university, [but] we’re also protecting the guests that come in [the Hibalag grounds],” he added. 

However, eye-witness reports say that many attendees did not follow the health protocols, including physical distancing, on the opening night of the Hibalag Booth Festival.  

Contradictory statements from the governing bodies of these health protocols further complicate the implementation of health and safety measures. 

When asked about the importance of the protocols, SUSG Health Committee Chairperson Abigail Custodia said that protocols on face masks were planned to be strictly imposed.

Meanwhile, Stephanie Molinos, chairperson of SUSG Health Emergency Response Team (HERT) Committee, said otherwise, stating that the wearing of face masks was made to be voluntary. 

Despite the contradicting statements, both chairs believed the importance of following the health protocols as personal prevention for diseases that may be transmitted with the influx of people at the Hibalag grounds. 

Issues with the lack of communication were also evident in the recent guidelines for the Parada Sillimaniana 2023. 

While the official rules suggest wearing face masks is “encouraged,” the College of Arts and Sciences and SU Senior High School took a firmer stance, stating on their Facebook page that wearing face masks is “mandatory.”

The Health and Safety Protocols were prepared by the Committee on Student Organization together with the SUSG HERT and Health Committees. 

Protocols were based on Proclamation No. 297, which lifted the State of Public Health Emergency in the Philippines.

“All prior orders, memoranda, and issuances that are effective only during the State of Public Health Emergency shall be deemed withdrawn, revoked, or canceled and shall no longer be in effect,” the proclamation reads.

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