Espinoza: Subject to abuse?

·3 min read

It seems to me that everyone is delighted with the executive order (EO) of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. that allows voluntary wearing of face masks in outdoor settings despite the rising number of Covid-19 infections in some parts of the country. Under EO 3, which is effective immediately, the wearing of face masks is no longer mandatory in “open spaces and non-crowded outdoor areas with good ventilation.”

The Department of Health (DOH) recorded 15,379 new Covid-19 cases from Sept. 5 to 11, 2022. Based on the DOH’s case bulletin, the cases logged in the recent week was a decrease from the 17,145 cases recorded from Aug. 29 to Sept. 4. It also recorded a total of 300 additional verified Covid-related deaths from June 2020 to September 2022. The DOH recorded 19 deaths this month.

To recall, the Department of the Interior and Local Government questioned Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama’s EO 5, which he issued last Aug. 31 and makes the wearing of face masks “non-obligatory” both outdoors and indoors in the city, except in medical facilities at the discretion of its administrator, as well as by persons who are immunocompromised, sick and experiencing flu-like symptoms who go outside their homes.

Health experts also disagree with the non-obligatory wearing of face masks in offices and enclosed buildings and in crowded places. In restaurants, there are many customers that are already unmindful of the virus. Some customers, while eating or after eating, talk so loud and some laugh to their heart’s content to the dismay of others who are still dining.

With President Marcos’ EO 3, all the other executive orders issued by the local government chief executives that are not consistent with EO 3 are deemed superseded and voided, thus there is no need for Mayor Rama to amend his EO 5 and EO 6 (which amended EO 5) to conform with the President’s EO 3, which will now be implemented uniformly and nationally. And, would we be seeing the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Philippine National Police enforcing the President’s EO 3?

I observed that under Mayor Rama’s EO 5, many employees and workers in enclosed offices and buildings no longer wear their face masks. The same is true in the towns and cities of the Province of Cebu. In one resort in Alcoy, the chefs and food servers in the restaurant no longer wear face masks, while I and my wife Dr. Malou still wear our face masks.

Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia on June 8, 2022 issued EO 16 (“Rationalizing the Wearing of Face Masks within Cebu”) that makes wearing of face non-mandatory in open and outdoor settings. However, under EO 16 wearing a face mask is still required in closed and/or air-conditioned spaces. There is no doubt that those resort workers misunderstood, if not abused, the governor’s EO 16. I don’t think chefs and food servers in resorts, hotels and restaurants are already exempt from wearing face masks.

One of the problems with too many executive orders is that it makes the enforcement and compliance of the different orders confusing, misunderstood and subject to abuse by the recalcitrant individuals.

In Mandaue City, the wearing of face masks is made mandatory by a city ordinance that carries a fine of P5,000. Mayor Jonas Cortes has discussed with the city councilors for the amendment of the city’s ordinance to conform to the President’s EO 5.

I agree with Lapu-Lapu City Vice Mayor Celedonio Sitoy, a doctor of medicine, that wearing a face mask is not a difficult thing to do. Wearing a face mask is already a proven first line of protection from the virus that causes Covid-19.