EXPLAINER: Police, mayor's statements on cancellation of CQ passes didn't tell what Cebu public needed to know at once.

THE SITUATION. The available public document about the cancellation of quarantine passes for ECQ'd Cebu City was the June 23, 2020 memorandum of the officer-in-charge, Police Colonel Cydric Earl M. Tamayao.

Addressed to all station commanders, the memo said "there will be a suspension of quarantine pass within the area of Cebu City," effective 10 p.m. of that day Tuesday.

The police memo cited (a) a verbal instruction of Local Government Secretary Eduardo Ano, (b) the March 12 declaration of Code Red (sublevel 2), (c) public emergency proclamation #922 of March 8, and (d) the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

What spread the stunning news was the police memo circulated in various media platforms. Which magnified apprehension and fear that neither City Hall nor the public was prepared for a total lockdown.

NOT CALMING. Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella spoke for the city officials but only much later, reportedly after midnight, in a video message released through the city public information office.

Labella confirmed that DILG directed him, the reason he was cancelling all quarantine passes his office had issued, about 250,000 of them. City Hall and national agencies would be working on the details the next day (Wednesday) and the public would be updated. "Stay calm and be informed," Labella said, and support your local officials. Work with us, he said, capping with the rallying cry, pumping two fists on each other and flashing the thumb-up sign, "We will beat the coronavirus." As of this writing (June 24, Wednesday afternoon), there was no update yet.

Many people cannot be calm unless they are informed, about what they need to know at once. The police memo directing station commanders to look for a big holding cell like a gymnasium could hardly be calming.

KIND OF LOCKDOWN. Both the police memo and the mayor's video talk mentioned of exceptions. The police memo said: "Only the APOR (authorized personnel outside residence) and other essential personnel will be allowed to be seen (on) the city streets." Labella said there will be new quarantine passes to be distributed and he will work with IATF "in ensuring that the residents will still have access to their basic needs."

But neither police nor Labella said the exemptions will be enforced along with the ban. Meaning, there will have to be new system of exemptions, most likely to be tightened to allow fewer people to go out.

Councilor Dave Tumulak, head of the city's disaster and risk reduction and management committee, was quoted as saying "that residents can no longer go out of their home barangays, essential workers may still move freely." Which leaves the unanswered question whether the limit is within the barangay or the home.

BASIC QUESTION. Until the basic question is clarified, the public wonders whether an emergency, such as the need to buy or secure food, or the demand or work, would allow them to go out of their shelter.

That is the worrying part of many people. Some critics toss that with the illogical aside: "You complained before about the leadership being weak, now you complain that it is harsh?" Drastic, even harsh, people could accept that, why, most people have done that for four months or so now. But not unnecessarily, stupidly cruel.

Policy planners must think thus: "People wouldn't starve in a day or two. They could wait for the guidelines and the new passes, which given the first experience with quarantine exemptions, could be a lot of hassle again, but still, they're the governed, we are the governors. We are doing all this for them."

IN SUM, WAIT. Until the new rules are threshed out and CQ passes are available again, people just have to stay indoors. This has been what's it all about: waiting for the end to the spectacle of, what looks like to many of us, trial and error. They might soon get it right. As one public official asked privately, "Kamo diri, lalim ba?"