By Annalisa Burgos
Filipino-American Mika Salamanca, a vlogger with millions of fans in the Philippines, is serving 6 months of probation in her home in Alabama after being arrested in Honolulu last month.
The 20-year-old was caught breaking Hawaii’s mandatory 14-day self-quarantine when she arrived from Manila on July 6 and later admitted to it in a video she posted on social media.
As part of her deferred guilty plea, Salamanca was ordered by a Hawaii court to make a public service announcement in Tagalog. Court records show the Attorney General had to approve the video script before she posted it.
Salamanca released the PSA on Twitter on Tuesday (August 11). In it, she says she’s sorry for breaking the state’s mandatory quarantine and apologizes to her fellow Filipinos and the people of Hawaii. She says she worked things out with the court and was given the chance to clear her name. She adds that her case can be a lesson for people to be good citizens and follow the law during COVID-19. She asks people in Hawaii to wear face masks, wash their hands and practice proper social distancing.
In addition to the video, Salamanca was ordered to pay $575 in court fees, and not to return to Hawaii during the pandemic.
Salamanca’s attorney says his client "was remorseful of the whole thing. She apologized to the court and the people of Hawaii."
Upset Hawaii residents reported Salamanca and her friends to police and state investigators after they saw TikTok videos of them hiking, eating out, and dancing in Sephora at an Oahu mall just days after she arrived from Manila.
Everyone arriving at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, including visitors and returning residents, are required to agree to and sign a quarantine order issued by Governor David Ige. Violators are subject to a fine of up to $5,000 and/or jail time.
People in the Waipahu neighborhood she was staying in also reported seeing her break quarantine.
The original posts were deleted, and some thought Salamanca returned to the Philippines, until she resurfaced when her quarantine period was over on July 20.
KITV-4, a TV station in Hawaii, broke the news that Salamanca released an apology video in Tagalog on social media admitting to violating the mandatory quarantine. Translated to English, she says “I admit that I made a mistake at the time when I arrived in Hawaii and we went out right away. I'm sorry.”
In her vlog, Salamanca tells her fans that law enforcement officers told her she could break quarantine if she had a negative COVID-19 test – a claim police and state officials say is not true and misleading.
“None of my investigators would convey that information, as it is incorrect," Hawaii Attorney General Clare E. Connors said in a media statement. "The fact that Ms. Salamanca has so many followers makes her actions that much more dangerous and concerning. The spread of misinformation can have very severe consequences during an emergency situation like we are in now.”
In a phone interview with KITV-4, Salamanca defended her claim, saying she had a recording of her conversation with a police officer on July 21. She said two other officers gave her the same information on July 9 or 10. She said she did not get the names of any of the officers.
A Honolulu Police spokesperson said conversations between officers and suspects can be taken out of context.
Hawaii residents say they’re glad to know Salamanca was held accountable for breaking the law. They also want Salamanca's friends who live in Hawaii – some influencers with fans in the Philippines – to be held accountable for helping Salamanca break quarantine. They identified John Paul Nuque, who goes by the IG personality fynestchina, Khrysster Ipalari, Peter Nuevo and Jamaica Pizarro. They and Salamanca did not respond to requests for comment.
Annalisa Burgos is a freelance journalist with 20 years of experience covering Asia and the United States. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram at @annalisaburgos and on Facebook: facebook.com/annalisathejournalist. The views expressed are her own.