DILG exec: Change face mask policy; Gwen stands ground

·4 min read

THE Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will ask Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia to make changes to her controversial Executive Order (EO) 16 that made the wearing of face masks in well-ventilated and open spaces in Cebu Province optional.

A show cause order may be issued to the governor if she declines to make the proposed changes, DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing said in an interview with CNN Philippines in Manila on Monday, June 13, 2022.

Densing or his representatives are expected to speak with the governor on her EO, which has created a conflict with the policies of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on the management of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic in the country.

“We will have to ask our officials in the region to talk to the governor to make some adjustments in the executive order. I believe there’s a good intent in the executive order by Governor Gwen, but more importantly we should most probably look into the details... It should be aligned with what is pronounced by the President,” Densing said.

President Rodrigo Duterte is the overall chairman of the IATF.

Among the changes proposed to be made is the implementation of the mandatory wearing of masks in crowded places.

Garcia responded by calling for a special session of the Cebu Provincial Board (PB) on Tuesday, June 14, for the enactment of an ordinance on the optional wearing of masks based on her EO.

In her letter to the PB, she certified the enactment as “urgent, authorizing the said ordinance, on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd readings.”

Under Garcia’s EO 16, issued last June 8, mask wearing would be required only in closed and/or air-conditioned spaces.

The use of masks would now be optional in well-ventilated and open spaces, with persons just “highly encouraged to continue to wear their masks especially in crowded outdoor areas.”

But persons with Covid-19 symptoms like fever, cough or runny nose would still be required to wear a mask at all times when they leave their homes.

The EO covers 44 towns and six component cities in Cebu Province. It does not cover the highly urbanized cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu.

Quorum

The optional wearing of face masks in well-ventilated and open spaces in Cebu Province would have become a local law already, if not for the failure of the PB to gather a quorum for its regular session on Monday, June 13.

PB Member John Ismael “Jiembo” Borgonia (3rd district) told SunStar Cebu on Monday that he had prepared his proposed ordinance titled “An Ordinance Rationalizing the Wearing of Face Masks within the Province of Cebu.”

Borgonia said Garcia had issued a certificate of urgency to tackle his proposed ordinance on the same day, Monday.

He also noted that under the Local Government Code, they are allowed to conduct three readings for the proposed ordinance in one session as long as it is urgent.

However, there was no quorum since only eight of the 18 members of the PB were present during their Monday regular session.

Apart from him, Borgonia said the other PB members present were Raul Bacaltos (1st district), Yolanda Daan (1st district), Edsel Galeos (2nd district), Kerrie Keane Shimura (4th district), Thadeo Jovito Ouano (6th district), Christopher Baricuatro (7th district), and Philippine Councilors League President Caroline Bacaltos.

Vice Gov. Hilario Davide III, who serves as presiding officer, was also present.

Borgonia said majority of the PB members were reportedly on leave while others had official business, the reason why they had no session.

He said the governor’s certificate of urgency was needed because the deadline for the submission of resolutions and ordinances to be tackled for this week’s regular session was last Wednesday, June 8.

Not recognize

After Garcia issued EO 16, Secretary Eduardo Año said the DILG would not recognize the EO. Año instead ordered police to continue to “confront, apprehend, and arrest” all violators of minimum public health standards (MPHS), including the wearing of face masks in public places.

On Monday, Philippine National Police (PNP) officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. reiterated that the police should follow the orders from the national government, specifically on the protocols to prevent the spread of the Covid-19.

Danao ordered his men to continue implementing the mandatory face mask rule in all public areas as ordered by President Duterte.

Police Brig. Gen. Roque Eduardo Vega, director of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas, also said they would continue to apprehend those who violate the rules of the IATF, as he ordered the local police and the public to follow the directives of the DILG.

Vega said he already called on the city and provincial police directors, including Police Col. Engelbert Soriano, director of the Cebu Police Provincial Office, to follow the order of their head office.

Soriano had earlier said his office would abide by the governor’s EO as it remains the law in the province “unless it is later on invalidated by proper authority.”

Borgonia said having a local law would give more teeth to Garcia’s EO, preventing the arrest of their constituents as law enforcers would have no basis to arrest them. (with GDC, TPM, TPT)

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting