In Cebu City too, no arrests for unmasked in open areas

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CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama has met with the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) to discuss his marching orders on the wearing of face masks in relation to the recent executive order (EO) issued by Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia.

Early Tuesday, June 14, 2022, Rama told reporters that he would instruct the CCPO not to apprehend individuals who are not wearing masks in open and well-ventilated areas.

Under Garcia’s Executive Order (EO) 16, issued last June 8, the wearing of masks would now be optional in well-ventilated and open spaces in the Province of Cebu.

The provision has drawn condemnation from the Department of Health and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), for being contrary to the health protocols set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año has ordered police to continue to “confront, apprehend and arrest” violators of minimum public health standards (MPHS), including the wearing of masks in public places.

Rama, however, explained that he was not adopting Garcia’s EO.

In August 2020, the city council approved City Ordinance 2566, “An Ordinance Penalizing any Violation in Relation to the Implementation of General/Enhanced Community Quarantine in Cebu City During Public Health Crisis.”

Rama said they are not suspending the ordinance but insisted that there are other interventions that can be done.

Rama said members of the CCPO should educate residents about the risks of not wearing face masks instead of arresting them.

According to the mayor, the CCPO should focus on other concerns such as drugs and crimes against persons and properties.

“If there is a need later, there’s no reason for us to be arresting (now). As far as I am concerned, apprehension for me will be the last, but the first priority (is to) make the city peaceful,” said Rama.

Rama said he respected the position of the governor and did not want to argue about it.

“The governor is banking on her argumentation, respect her. I do not want to be arguing with the position of the governor. She knows what she is talking to and I also would expect respect from whoever may not agree (with me),” said Rama.

Rama said his decision not to adopt Garcia’s EO was supported by stakeholders during their convergence meeting, and he will maintain this position until circumstances allow the optional wearing of face masks.

Lt. Col. Janette Rafter, CCPO deputy director for operations, said that in compliance with Rama’s order, they’ve instructed their personnel to only reprimand, but not arrest, people caught violating health protocols, including the wearing of masks in public and practicing social distancing.

Rafter said the personnel assigned to their Oplan Bulabog and Oplan Recorida operations, which had helped keep Covid-19 cases down during the surges last year, had been reassigned to their anti-criminality campaign.

Based on their personnel’s observation, majority of Cebu City’s residents still follow the minimum health protocols, including the wearing of masks in public places, having grown accustomed to the practice two years into the pandemic. (IRT, AYB / JKV)

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