A Pinay traveler who ignored mandated by law quarantine protocols in December pleaded guilty and will be fined P20,000 for violating a law requiring mandatory reporting of communicable disease.
Gwyneth Anne Chua appeared before Makati City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 128 Judge Maureen Rubio-Marquez on Monday morning, accused of violating Republic Act 11332, or the “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.”
According to Assistant City Prosecutor Rafael Rodrigo Esguerra, when asked for her plea, she pleaded “guilty.”
“In fact, she apologized for the hassle she caused,” he stated.
Chua did not speak to the media, who were only permitted to remain outside the courtroom. Her attorneys also refused to comment. The case against security guard Esteban Gatbonton, on the other hand, will proceed because he previously made a plea, not to the charge. Gatbonton is a Berjaya Hotel security guard who allegedly helped Chua escape from the quarantine facility.
“That kind of accusation necessarily assumes that he has the obligation to detain. I don’t see where the obligation is and I don’t think that he has the power to detain or even to restrain,” his lawyer, Jose Bernas, said.
Bernas also stated that Chua’s guilty plea will have no effect on his client’s case because they are separate.
“It’s irrelevant. Someone might plead guilty simply for expediency…A guilty plea does not necessarily mean an admission of guilt. It’s just an acceptance of the penalty,” he explained.
During her initial hearing on Monday, Chua was accompanied by her parents and counsel. The complaint initially named her parents, Allan and Gemma, as well as her boyfriend, Rico Atienza. According to a press release issued by the Justice Department in May, Chua’s father picked her up from the hotel on December 22, 2021, and her mother supported her when she returned on December 25. Her boyfriend was with her at a bar in Poblacion, Makati, on December 23.
However, prosecutors conducting the investigation determined that there was insufficient evidence to charge them, as well as other hotel employees.
Chua was spotted partying in Poblacion, Makati on December 23, 2021, just two days after arriving from the United States and entering her mandatory quarantine at the Berjaya Hotel.
She was later found to be positive for COVID-19. Her contacts were also revealed to be infected. Chua admitted the violation, according to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat. The incident, which occurred in the midst of the threat posed by the then-new omicron variant, went viral. Chua was dubbed “Poblacion girl.”