Local government officials should follow Malacañang Palace’s orders covering the Luzon-wide “enhanced” community quarantine, or they could face criminal charges, President Rodrigo Duterte said in a taped speech broadcast early this morning.
The president’s warning comes after his men rejected the request of Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto to use tricycles to ferry patients and healthcare workers to hospitals. Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles has said that tricycles were unsafe because COVID-19 could potentially be transmitted among its passengers.
Duterte, who suspended all forms of mass transport because of the quarantine, urged local governments units (LGUs) to abide by the rules.
“Do not make this quarantine more difficult for our people than it already is. LGUs should make note of this,” he said. “At this time, let us make ourselves clear that we are not separate from a republic or from each other. There is only one republic here, the Republic of the Philippines, and therefore, you should abide by the directives of the national government…for the good of the country and the protocols observed during the time of the lockdown.”
Duterte, who initially dismissed the gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic, seemed more serious about the current scenario.
“I think this is not just a quarantine. I think we are already in a stage of a lockdown simply because the contagion takes its toll in the countryside,” he said.
“I know you have the mandate to deal with your localities. I was a mayor myself in case you have forgotten. But this is an emergency of national proportions and therefore it should be the national government that should call the shots,” he said.
He said all officials should follow the rules set by the rules set by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, which is overseeing the quarantine.
“I am ordering all LGUs that are doing this to stand down and to abide by the directives of the IATF, the task force [in charge of overseeing the lockdown],” he said.
“[I]f you go beyond the standards that we have set, you are abusing your authority and you know that it can lead to administrative cases or even worse, unless you stop what you are doing… Criminal cases cannot be far behind,” he said.
“Let our country lead the way in imposing a lockdown strict enough to effectively kill COVID-19, liberal enough so our people will not die of hunger, and orderly enough so that our country will not be driven towards chaos in this difficult time.”
Pausing from reading his prepared speech, Duterte added in English and Filipino, “Let’s just follow [the rules] since this is all for our own good. Do not try to overdo things or think you can do what you want to do. We move in unison precisely to control the contagion…for the better health of the Filipino. No one wanted this. We don’t want to lord it over your local governments. We don’t want to do that. Don’t do this on your own.”
Duterte’s speech comes after Sotto became an internet sensation during the past couple of days, thanks to what many have perceived to be the mayor’s excellent management of the lockdown. Some netizens have even said that his popularity poses a threat to Duterte, especially after pro-government netizens have attacked him for allegedly disobeying the president.
This article, Duterte threatens erring mayors with criminal charges if they don’t follow lockdown rules, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!