Virus hits third SRA employee

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BY MARCHEL P. ESPINA

A third employee of the Sugar Regulatory Administration in Negros Occidental tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 yesterday.

This was confirmed by three DAILY STAR sources, including two top SRA officials, who requested anonymity.

The patient is assigned to the SRA office in La Granja, La Carlota City, and he was believed to have direct contact with employees in the La Carlota and Bacolod offices.

SRA Board Member Emilio Yulo III, who is representing the sugar planters’ sector, said he also received a report about a third positive patient.

However, he said he could not deny or confirm because of the “gag order of the management.”

He said the employees he talked to would not say anything.

DAILY STAR reached SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica for comment, but he was tight-lipped on the case.

In a text message, he said that “SRA had been doing its very best to handle responsibly any Covid-19 case, in consultation and coordination with the local Inter-Agency Task Force and the Department of Health officials”.

He added, “due to confidentiality of information and to protect those concerned from being discriminated upon however, any other information must be withheld.”

He also assured the public that SRA is after the safety and protection of all its employees and personnel.

On September 9, Serafica issued a memorandum that barred SRA officers and employees from disclosing Covid-19 cases in their agency to the media.

In another memo issued yesterday, a copy of which was obtained by the DAILY STAR, he reminded the officers and employees of Republic Act 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, that punishes individuals or groups creating, perpetrating, or spreading false information regarding the Covid-19 crisis on social media and other platforms without prejudice to the filing of charges on acts or omissions already penalized by existing laws on the matter.

“Obviously, we would like to avoid, as much as possible, filing criminal and administrative charges against one of our own personnel at the legal table,” the memo said.

It said that the management is alarmed by the flurry of inquiries coming from the media, asking and verifying the Covid-19 cases in the office.

“While the management does not intend to withhold this kind of data, especially from our personnel, let it be clarified that we are bound by the Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2020-0002 dated April 24, or the Privacy Guidelines on the Processing and Disclosure of Covid-19 Related Data for Disease Surveillance and Response,” it said.

The latest memo reminded the SRA employees to be truthful in disclosing facts relative to the Covid-19 such as answering the contact tracing survey form and the narration of facts, “lest we shall be constrained to hold you criminally and administratively liable for such statements prejudicial to the best interest of service,” it added.*

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