Reckless behavior | Sara: Cost cutting on meal budget is tantamount to corruption

MAYOR Sara Duterte yesterday described as “reckless” the act of officers who recycled food that caused the hospitalization of 38 sports delegates from Mati City on Saturday.

“This obvious cost cutting on the budget for the meals is tantamount to corruption and should be dealt with severely,” Duterte said in a statement released by the City Information Office. “Limited resources should not be an excuse for reckless behavior which endangers the lives of people, especially children.”

Five of the 38 affected delegates in the Davao Region Athletic Association (DAVRAA), currently conducted here, are still recovering at the government-run Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC).

The initial report by the City Health Office (CHO) revealed that the people in charge of the contingent served the leftover food from the previous night for breakfast to the athletes. The leftovers for breakfast were served for lunch and then the same happened for dinner. It was likewise reported that they may have allowed the athletes to drink from water sources not cleared for human consumption.

“I recommend to the Department of Education and the Local Government Unit of Mati to investigate the teachers and the persons in charge of the group,” Duterte said.

“This reckless action resulted in the injury of 38 individuals, many of whom were children entrusted by their parents to those who purported to take care of them.”

The mayor reminded all contingents that the city government, as host of the DAVRAA, “is ready to assist anytime and let us know immediately how we can help them to make their stay comfortable.”

The city government immediately responded to an emergency report when the Mati delegates complained of stomach pain, loose bowel movement, nausea, vomiting, and headache. Standby medical teams from Central 911 rushed the delegates to the SPMC for immediate medical attention.

The affected delegates were 34 student athletes, three coaches and one kitchen staff.

Thirty-three patients, including the coaches and kitchen staff, were already released. The released student athletes were also cleared to compete in the regional sports meet.

“After they flushed it out and drank medicine, they were released,” said Dr. Josephine Villafuerte, chief of the City Health Office.

Villafuerte said the official diagnosis was acute gastroenteritis.

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the lining of the intestines caused by a virus, bacteria or parasites, according to, the U.S national library of medicine. The disease spreads through contaminated food or water, and contact with an infected person. Symptoms of gastroenteritis include diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, headache, fever and chills.

Before the victims complained of stomach ache, they ate corned beef, nilagang baka (beef stew) and fried rice for dinner.

The City Health chief said the food was not stored properly because there was no refrigerator on site. The Mati City delegation is staying in Sta. Ana Elementary School.

“If you cook, you should serve it within four hours,” she said. “In fact, you should serve it within two hours but we only extend it to four. They cooked at three o’clock (p.m.) and served it at eight (p.m.).”

She added that some of the patients were already complaining of diarrhea as early as Feb. 15 but they only complained when they became really sick.

Meanwhile, authorities here are still investigating the site of the billeting area of the 38 victims.

“We’re looking into a lot of things, such as food, their kitchen setup, and their situation at the billeting area,” said Department of Education Regional Office spokesperson Jenelito Atillo.

The affected delegates are billeted at the Sta. Ana National High School for the regional sports meet that was set to start yesterday in various locations in the city.

The city is hosting around 6,000 delegates for the event.

Each delegation is in charge of preparing food for their delegates.

Atillo said that each delegation has a “kitchen cabinet,” which refers to a team and their respective equipment and stocks, operated by Technology and Livelihood Education teachers from DepEd.

Asked why only scores of the 600 delegates in the billeting area were affected, Atillo said that a team spearheaded by the CHO was examining various other angles.

The DepEd has initiated a mechanism that would communicate with parents to update them on the situation.

At the moment, officials from the city government and other agencies are meeting to determine additional food safety protocols.

The DepEd had already instructed other delegations to monitor for other similar cases in their respective billeting areas.

The 2018 DAVRAA formally opened yesterday afternoon at UM Matina grounds. More than 5,000 athletes in the region compete across 31 disciplines. The regional meet will run until Feb. 23. The closing ceremonies will also be held at UM Matina, capped with a friendship parade around the oval track.