THE Cebu Provincial Government will turn over P3 million worth of face masks to all 50 police stations in the province for distribution to those caught not wearing one in public.
This will be done ahead of the governor’s planned issuance of a memorandum lifting the fines and other penalties imposed on persons found violating this minimum public health standard set by the Department of Health (DOH).
Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said the police are expected to give away these face masks to violators, with a reminder to wear these in public as prevention against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
The face masks will be donated by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
“This is not about telling people not to wear masks,” Garcia said in a press conference Monday, April 19, 2021.
She said the imposition of fines or community service on violators leads to corruption.
“I’m not saying everyone is corrupt, but is this covered by a receipt? If the fine is P300 and the violator is asked to pay P500, is a corresponding receipt issued? Is there proper accounting for these fines? How would you know?... It leads to corruption. It’s oppression,” she said.
As of Monday, April 19, 2021, the Office of the Governor was still drafting the memorandum, which will be sent to 44 municipalities and six component cities, namely Bogo, Danao, Talisay, Naga, Carcar and Toledo.
The highly urbanized cities of Cebu, Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue are not covered. These local government units (LGUs) have indicated that they will continue to enforce local ordinances penalizing those who don’t wear masks.
Garcia earlier instructed Police Col. Engelbert Soriano, officer-in-charge of the Cebu Police Provincial Office, to ensure that his men don’t mistreat violators.
She thanked Soriano for his support.
“In fact, I would like to personally thank PRO 7 General (Ronnie) Montejo and, of course, our new PD Col. Soriano for supporting my position that we should not require those who violate the mask policy to pay fines. They can be reminded, and now I am telling you that is really a good policy to distribute masks,” she said.
August Lizer Malate, head of the Emergency Operations Center for Covid-19 in Mandaue City, said the City’s progress in the fight against Covid-19 may be attributed to its consistent enforcement of health protocols, such as wearing of face masks.
He said a penalty must be imposed because there are still some residents who refuse to adhere to the protocols more than one year into the pandemic.
“Those people who follow the imposed policies have no fear about the penalty, even if we increase it up to a million (pesos),” he said.
The local ordinance, signed by Mayor Jonas Cortes in July 2020, imposes a fine of P5,000 or six to 12 months of imprisonment.
In Lapu-Lapu City, Mayor Junard Chan said he will continue to enforce an ordinance penalizing failure to wear face masks in public.
“I disagree with moves to allow the people not to wear face masks. Even those who are already fully vaccinated have to wear face masks because they could still contract the virus. How much more for those who don’t wear masks?” he said.
He said, however, that the City Government is not keen on collecting fines. Violators are instead required to render community service to ensure that they adhere to the health standards. (ANV / KFD / GCM)