Cagayan de Oro City pastor arrested for organizing worship service despite COVID-19 fears

A pastor from Cagayan de Oro City was arrested yesterday after he presided over a worship service, a violation of the town’s social distancing ordinance that was meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Pastor Alfred Caslam of The Word of God Spirit and Life Ministries Inc. was arrested from an old theater located on Capistrano Street for leading the service, which was attended by almost 500 people including the elderly and children, reports Rappler.

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Antonio Resma Jr., head of the Cagayan de Oro Regulatory Compliance Board (RCB), told Cebu Daily News that this was the second time Caslam defied the city’s ban on religious gatherings, which was issued by Mayor Oscar Moreno on March 19. Resma said that they received reports that the pastor was leading a worship service at about 10:30am yesterday.

“We checked and found the names of 495 members in their attendance lists. Many of them have their children with them,” Resma said, and added that the congregation quietly left the theater after the authorities handcuffed the pastor.

Caslam apologized for holding the service but said he didn’t expect that it would attract such a big crowd. He also said that they followed social distancing laws by making sure that each person would not be seated close to each other.

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Despite the pastor’s apology, he will be charged for violating Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code for resistance and disobedience to persons in authority; and Section 9 of R.A. 11332, for non-cooperation related to health events of public concern, reports CNN Philippines. City Hall has ordered the closure of his church.

While Cagayan de Oro City has encouraged social distancing, Mayor Moreno has refused to put the town on lockdown, saying that doing so would adversely affect the economy, reports The Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The city has one COVID-19 patient and 38 persons under investigation as of today.


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