We did not violate any health protocols, Senator Manny Pacquiao said today after photos of his birthday bash went viral, sparking anger among Filipinos who accused him of flouting social distancing.
The photos were shared by the lawmaker’s wife Jinkee Pacquiao over the weekend on social media, and the event was held in General Santos City. The images showed the couple entertaining friends at close contact, most of whom did not wear face masks or face shields.
However, Pacquiao said on the news program Headstart that the event venue was big enough to accommodate the almost 50 visitors who celebrated his 42nd birthday with him. He also claimed that they tested negative in the real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction tests (RT-PCR), which he required all guests to take before attending his party.
“It was less than 50 people who were there inside the hall, and they also took swab tests. We all required them to take swab [tests] so we weren’t negligent,” he said in English and Filipino.
“We knew that this would be an issue so that’s why they had to take swab [tests] before they were allowed in…The hall was big. Actually that hall, it can fit about 300 but there were less than 50 so that’s OK for a place that can fit 300,” he added.
Pacquiao added that they carefully organized the party because he didn’t want his children to get infected with the coronavirus. His kids wore masks during the event.
“There were no violations. We were careful about celebrating, and it was just a simple [party],” he said.
While the senator may argue that his guests took the RT-PCR test, experts say that these are unreliable if taken immediately after a person becomes infected. The best time to take the test is about two to three days after symptoms appear; taking it earlier than that leads to a false-negative result.
Senator Pacquiao’s party occurred a few months after now-Philippine National Police chief General Debold Sinas hosted a mañanita, a military and police tradition where a senior officer is serenaded by his colleagues at the dawn of his birthday. The event was held when most of the Philippines was under the strictest form of lockdown, and Sinas is currently being investigated for the alleged transgression.