Briones: What’s the deal?

·3 min read

It seems to me the folks in Manila are picking on Cebu yet again.

Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia recently revealed that there are plans to charge her with insubordination because she allegedly refuses to comply with Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease guidelines on arriving overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs).

Why? Because the governor decided to adapt the guidelines to the local situation? I hope they realize that what’s good for Manila may not necessarily be good for Cebu. And vice versa.

At any rate, Garcia is not breaking any law since the IATF guidelines are just that. Guidelines.

Perhaps, some national officials have forgotten its meaning. So why don’t I refresh their memory.

Let’s see, the Merriam-Webster dictionary says it’s “an indication or outline of policy or conduct,” while the Cambridge dictionary elaborates that it’s “information intended to advise people on how something should be done or what something should be.”

In other words, what the national IATF issues is not set on stone. It’s a mere recommendation or suggestion. Anyway, whatever mandate it had over local government units (LGUs) when this coronavirus health crisis broke out in March last year expired several months ago. So what does that mean?

Hmm. How shall I explain it so those people in Manila will understand?

According to Section 105 of the Local Government Code, the national government, through the Department of Health (DOH), can only take over an LGU during a pandemic for a period of six months. Let’s do some simple math, shall we?

Let’s just say that this whole thing started in April last year, so the six-month period ended in September yet. And what month is it now? It’s May 2021. So why are the national IATF and some national officials acting as if they still have the last word on dealing with the problem?

Mind you, arriving OFWs and ROFs are grateful for Cebu Province’s “innovation” on the IATF guidelines.

As the governor pointed out, not all of them can afford to stay in a hotel for several days to make sure they are not infectious to the local populace. That’s why they are tested for Covid-19 upon arrival at the airport. And while they wait for their results to come out, which is three days, tops, they stay in a quarantine hotel. If their results come back negative, then they’re free to go home where they will isolate themselves further. On the seventh day, they will undergo another swab just to be sure. And just to make the national IATF happy.

So what are they yammering about?

I know the pandemic has not gone away. I know that the novel coronavirus has killed 2,091 individuals in Central Visayas, as of May 24, according to the DOH 7 data. But there are over seven million people living in the region. Don’t tell me, the government expects them to put their lives on hold until this problem goes away.

Again, why “add further burden to an already suffering people,” to quote the governor.