DILG: Correct mask ordinance in 3 days; Davide: Go to court

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THE Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has given the Provincial Government of Cebu until the weekend to “amend, rectify or adjust” its newly passed ordinance making the wearing of face masks in open and well-ventilated areas in the province optional.

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año on Thursday, June 16, 2022, said they are giving the Cebu Provincial Government a chance to align its ordinance with President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order (EO) 151, which adopts the guidelines on the implementation of the Alert Level system in the country amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic as recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).

The IATF guidelines highlighted the continuous observance of minimum public health standards, which includes the mandatory wearing of face masks in all areas under any alert level.

Should the Cebu Provincial Government still refuse to comply, the DILG will exhaust all legal remedies against them, including Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, as ordered by the Office of the President.

“We have to enforce RA 11332. We have penal provisions in that law and we will see what could be applied. Second, of course, there are also administrative sanctions and cases we can apply like, for example, if what they are doing is not ethical, we can enforce RA 3019, which is the anti-graft and corrupt practices law,” said Año in a mix of English and Filipino.

RA 11332 is the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act, which aims to protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness.

“We will exhaust all the options here. The Office of the President also has instructions that we should seek all remedies and if there are none, then we can also pursue legal actions... Maybe over the weekend, we will give them a chance to rectify. After the weekend, then we will do whatever is necessary,” he added.

Sought for comment, Garcia said she would hold a press conference on the matter on Friday, June 17.

Reelected Cebu Vice Gov. Hilario Davide III, on the other hand, advised the DILG and the IATF to bring to court their objections on the policy of the province allowing the optional wearing of masks in open and well-ventilated spaces.

Last Tuesday, June 14, the Cebu Provincial Board had passed an ordinance adopting Garcia’s EO 16 which makes the wearing of masks in open and well-ventilated areas in the province no longer mandatory, contrary to the protocols the IATF set to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Garcia issued EO 16 last June 8.

'2 more weeks'

Año said the Cebu Provincial Government, as well as Garcia, is not going against any person but the rule of law itself.

“Ngayon, hindi naman ibig sabihin na dalawang linggo na lang yan ay hindi na natin dapat sundin yun. Hindi naman kami ang nagpapatupad nito. Ito ay batas na para sa lahat at hindi rin naman sinasabi na ibinoto ako ng one million something Filipinos in Cebu, yun ang masusunod,” he said.

(Now, it doesn’t mean that since we have only two weeks left, we should stop following orders. We are not the ones implementing this order. This is a law already for everyone. You can’t say that just because one million-something Filipinos in Cebu voted for you, that is what should be followed.)

Año made the statement when asked to respond to Garcia's pronouncement that it will be his legacy if he will file a case against her in his last 15 days in office.

“If Secretary Año really intends to file a case against me, then that is his prerogative. It will be his legacy that he will leave behind long after he has ended his tenure as secretary of [DILG], which should happen in about 15 days’ time. He is no longer the secretary of DILG in 15 days, but if he files the case, it stays, so it will be his legacy,” said Garcia.

“That is also not a basis because there is no logic there. Even if you ask the 1.2 million people who voted, not all of those will agree to the lifting of the mandatory wearing of masks. And the state of calamity through EO 1218 will be until September 2022 because we are still in a pandemic. The state of calamity and state of public health emergency will still carry over to the next administration. So nothing will change. When you say, “you have only two weeks,” it’s devoid of logic,” Año added.

Garcia was reelected governor last May 9 after garnering over 1.47 million votes.

The new set of officials under the incoming administration of President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. will take office on June 30.

Vice governor

Last Wednesday, Vice Governor Davide advised objectors to bring their objections on the Cebu policy to court.

Davide, a lawyer who presided over the special session of the Provincial Board that passed the ordinance on June 14, believes that the implementation of Garcia’s EO 16 has become legal as this is now supported by an ordinance crafted under the guidance of the local government code.

“Kung buot questionon na sa IATF, adto sila sa korte to question the validity of the ordinance. Pero ang coverage within the province,” Davide said. (If the IATF wants to question it, let it go to court to question the validity of the ordinance. But the coverage is within the province.)

Davide said their move was an exercise of local autonomy.

“My position on that is it's already an ordinance. It’s a law, so I think that that is what will prevail. That’s my position, and besides this is an exercise of the provinces of the provincial governments’ autonomy. Local autonomy is in the local government code,” Davide added.

On Wednesday, the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) Cebu Chapter, led by the governor’s daughter, Liloan Mayor Christina Garcia Frasco, passed a resolution supporting and adopting the ordinance.

LMP Cebu is composed of the mayors of the 44 municipalities of the Province of Cebu.

On the same day, the Philippine Councilors League-Cebu Provincial Federation, led by president Caroline Bacaltos, also issued a resolution expressing support for Garcia's EO 16 and its supporting provincial ordinance. (TPT, SUNSTAR PHILIPPINES)

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