4 more arrested as victim count nears 1,700
DAVAO CITY: Health officials in Davao City have found out that the maker of the durian candy that poisoned more than 1,600 individuals in the Caraga region is not registered with the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA).
Acting Mayor Paolo Duterte said a check made by the City Health Office with the Department of Health (DOH) revealed that Wendy’s Durian Candy, which is based in Barangay Maa, Davao City does not have the required permits to sell food products.
“It was found out that the manufacturer does not have the needed registration,” said Duterte.
This developed as the number of victims rose to at least 1,699 as of 2 p.m. on Saturday from Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Sur.
In Surigao del Sur, on Friday, victims came from the towns of Tago, Cagwait, Marihatag, Bayabas and Tandag City.
There were 438 who were assessed and evaluated at the Adela Serra Memorial Medical Center while 483 cases were evaluated and also assessed at the Social Hall in Tandag City.
Another 139 cases were reported at the Marihatag District Hospital, 101 cases from Cagwait town and 21 cases were brought to the Lianga District Hospital from the towns of Cagwait and Marihatag.
Wendy’s Durian Candy owner, Janet Aquino, has presented herself to the police immediately after the news broke, apparently to clear her name.
As of press time, seven were arrested while ix are at large.
Now detained at the Tandag City Police are Genelyn Dorgas, a resident of Barangay Bucana in Davao City, and Henrito Bitco Amoguis, a resident of Valencia, Bukidnon.
Detained at the Cagwait Police are Richard Rivera Jr., Junnil Teriote, John Dequilla, Joel Pasa, and Martinez Bocaycay, all residents of Calinan, Davao City.
The police reports two suspects were arrested by elements of Tandag Police Municipal Police Station Friday night in the premises of the Special Education Elementary School in Tandag City while two others were arrested while selling Durian, Mango and Mangosteen candies with markings of Wendy’s at the school.
They were arrested on board an L-300 FB Van (MEM-366) registered under the name of the Executive pastor of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ at the KJC compound at Phil-Jap Highway, Davao City, the reports said.
The reports said that the said vehicle was used by Richard Lawag Rivera Jr , 28 years old and Martinez Sawit Bocaycay , 19 years old, both residents of Mac Arthur, Calinan, Davao City, in selling the poisonous candies.
The suspects and the vehicle including the confiscated items are now in the custody of Cagwait Municipal Police Station for proper disposition while the seized items will be turned over to the appropriate authorities.
The reports said that police in Caraga is preparing and building up a case of Physical Injury in relation to R.A. 10611 or the Food Safety Act of 2013 and Physical Injury in relation to R.A.7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act against those apprehended vendors.
Because the suspects came from Davao City, Duterte has ordered the incident investigated.
“As Acting Mayor, I am closely coordinating with the City Government of Tandag and other provincial officials of the Province of Surigao del Sur regarding this matter,” he said. “Our City Health Office and the Department of Health are presently conducting an investigation to determine the cause of poisoning and source of the alleged durian and mangosteen candies. We are doing everything to get to the bottom of this. We are attending to this with urgency as this involves public health and is imbued with public interest.”
Dr. Joy Villafuerte, Davao City Health Officer, was ordered to work with health authorities from the Caraga Region.
Abel de Guzman, chief of the Surigao del Sur Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, said the victims are being assessed and treated in different hospitals in the province.
“No casualty was reported as of this time,” he said.
The food poisoning incident in Surigao del Sur came two weeks after at least 114 elementary pupils in Pangasinan complained of severe abdominal cramps, nausea and dizziness after eating candy.
Officials found out that the expiry date on the candy labels were erased.
WITH ANTHONY VARGAS, BERNADETTE A. PARCO