'Shame on us': Robredo slams lack of planning for LSIs at Rizal stadium

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 26) — Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday expressed horror over the circulating photos of stranded Filipinos crammed inside the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila.

Thousands of locally stranded individuals, mostly from the Visayas and Mindanao, were initially scheduled to return to their respective provinces over the weekend through the government-initiated "Hatid Tulong" program.

But for Robredo, the photos, which eventually went viral, showed that the government had no organized way of accommodating the stranded Filipinos. As seen in the photos, no physical distancing was imposed and not everyone was wearing face masks.

"Are these pictures real? If they are, shame on us," she said in her Facebook post.

LOOK: Lack of physical distancing among locally stranded individuals at crowded Rizal Memorial

The Department of Interior and Local Government earlier said that more than 8,000 LSIs were supposed to leave Metro Manila on July 25 and 26.

"Nakailang linggo na tayong nagdidiscuss nito, na parati nating hinihingi na pagbibigay pa lang ng temporary shelters sa mga LSIs, dapat organisado na. Ngayon kasi, halo-halo, walang sistema," she said in her Sunday radio show later in the day.

[Translation: We've been discussing this for weeks, we've been asking the government to implement an organized system of providing temporary shelters for the LSIs. Because now, it's really mixed. There is no system being imposed.]

The Vice President recommended that government rides should be scheduled by provinces or regions, and registration must come with a finalized schedule of the LSIs' trips and COVID-19 tests beforehand.

Robredo also said that the government should have learned its lesson by now, as resorting to rapid tests for returning LSIs is not reliable all the time.

For now, the government said that LSIs only had to undergo rapid tests -- diagnostic tools that produce quick but possibly inaccurate results -- before going back to their respective hometowns.

With the RT-PCR tests, swabs of samples taken from the nose and throat are tested to find out whether a person has the coronavirus. It is considered by health experts as the "gold standard" in confirmatory testing.

But due to the shortage of swab test kits, returning LSIs only needed to get a medical certificate stating that they have completed the 14-day quarantine. They were only required to undergo RT-PCR testing once they arrived in their hometowns.

Robredo said she had already written to COVID-19 Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez regarding her recommendations on testing, but has not yet received a response until now.

"I am all for helping locally stranded passengers per home to their destinations. But let us do it right please," she added.

Sinas defends cops playing music in crowded Rizal stadium

As if the packed crowd at the Rizal stadium was not enough, a video of policemen who were seemingly organized as an orchestra and playing music for the LSIs has also caught public backlash online.

Photojournalist Eloisa Lopez from Reuters captured on Saturday a video of policemen, gathered as a band, playing Rey Valera's "Kung Kailangan Mo Ako" in the middle of the stranded Filipinos seated together.

"Habang nagpipila ka, may music ka na soothing to the ears," Metro Manila Police chief Debold Sinas said Sunday in a press briefing, defending the policemen's gesture.

"Ang purpose talaga namin doon ay para mabigyan ng ibang entertainment...to ease up yung tension, to ease up yung init," he said.

[Translation: While you line up, you have a music that's soothing to the ears. Our purpose for that is to give the people entertainment...to ease up the tension, the heat.]