DILG files complaint vs Olongapo mayor for violating quarantine protocols

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Wednesday said it has filed a complaint against Olongapo City Mayor Rolen Paulino, Jr. before the Office of the Ombudsman for his alleged repeated violations of quarantine protocols being enforced by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID).

In a statement, DILG spokesperson Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said complaints for gross neglect of duty, grave misconduct, violation of Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan Act, violation of Republic Act No. 11332, and open disobedience under Article 231 of the Revised Penal Code were filed against Paulino.

Malaya said the DILG first issued a show cause order against Paulino in April for allegedly organizing a mass gathering for the distribution of Social Amelioration Cards that were used in the first tranche of the government’s Social Amelioration Program.

Under IATF guidelines, any form of mass gathering during community quarantine is prohibited.

“In that instance, we already admonished him and warned him to fully comply with IATF regulations, otherwise we may be compelled to charge him,” Malaya said.

The DILG official said that Paulino again violated IATF regulations when he issued Executive Order No. 54 on May 21, allowing backriding in motorcycles in his city.

This is contrast to the guidelines issued by the government’s task force against COVID-19 which prohibits the practice of riding pillion in motorcycle due to physical distancing measures.

While he subsequently issued EO No. 54-A on May 25, when his attention was called by the DILG, Malaya said Paulino did not revoke his earlier EO but simply suspended its implementation until such time that “it is consonant with the guidelines and regulations of the IATF-MEID, DOTr (Department of Transportation), LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board), DILG, or any other pertinent government agency.”

“The EO issued by the Olongapo Mayor in May clearly runs counter to the directives of the national government that were earlier issued in March as well as the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act enacted on March 24,” Malaya said.

“We are dismayed because as the local chief executive of Olongapo, he should be the first to follow the guidelines issued by the national government,” he added.

“The Bayanihan Act passed in March mandates that all LGUs should act within the letter and spirit of all the rules, regulations, and directives issued by the national government and are implementing standards of community quarantine consistent with what the national government has laid down to address COVID-19. And yet he issued his own policies inconsistent with national policies,” Malaya further stated.

The DILG official said the matter involving Paulino is now in the hands of the Office of the Ombudsman following their lodging of complaint.

“Doon na po magpapaliwanag ang alkalde ng Olongapo,” Malaya said.

Paulino has yet to issue any statement on the issue.

Malaya also reminded all local chief executives to be consistent with national laws and rules not only to avoid future legal consequences but also to ensure full cooperation towards a unified, cohesive, and orderly whole of government response to defeat COVID-19.

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