Editorial: Changing the rules of the game

·3 min read

Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia used the law to justify and defend her modification of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases guidelines on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) arriving at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA).

Garcia cited Section 105 of the Local Government Code, which states that the national government, through the health secretary “can temporarily assume direct supervision and control over health operations in any local government unit for the duration of the emergency, but in no case exceeding a cumulative period of six months.” The period for such direct national control and supervision can only be extended with the concurrence of the LGU concerned.

The IATF issued Resolution 114, which requires all arriving travelers to undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. Travelers spend the first 10 days in a quarantine facility, with the remaining days to be completed under home quarantine in their respective local government units (LGUs) of destination. They will be swabbed on the seventh day using the RT-PCR test with Day 1 being the day of arrival. Even if they test negative, they must remain in the quarantine facility for the whole 10 days.

Under the governor’s Executive Order (EO) 17, which she signed in March 2021 and was adopted into an ordinance by the Provincial Board, all travelers are tested for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) upon arrival at the airport. While they wait for the results to be released, they stay in a quarantine facility, in this case, a hotel. If their results come back negative, Cebuano OFWs and ROFs will be allowed to go and continue their quarantine at home. On the seventh day, they will be swabbed again.

Non-Cebu residents will be turned over to their LGU of destination subject to their own protocols.

The governor’s prime objectives were she didn’t want to disrupt their schedule and further drain their finances since some of the arriving OFWs and ROFs have been forcefully displaced by the ongoing pandemic.

However, Garcia’s EO 17 has become moot with Malacañang’s announcement on Thursday, May 27, that all international flights bound for the MCIA will be diverted to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Metro Manila, effective Saturday, May 29, until June 5, where passengers will then be subjected to the testing and quarantine protocols set by the IATF.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea gave no other explanation as to why the diversion was made or who would pay for the Cebuano OFWs’ and ROFs’ trip to Cebu.

It has become apparent some national officials don’t want our lady governor to have the last word on the matter. Since they can’t bend her to their will, they change the rules of the game.

Garcia is being rebuked for doing what she believes to be right for Cebuanos.

Every step she has taken to try and ease the plight of millions of her constituents affected by the health crisis in the last 15 months, she has backed with scientific data. Even when some were met with criticisms, she never wavered.

In the last few months, she has shown Cebuanos and the rest of the country that they don’t have to be held in the grip of terror of the disease. That they can actually live and thrive under a new normal.