IATF prevails over local government directives: DOJ

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Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra shares his remarks with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during a meeting with key government officials at the Malacañang Palace on January 4, 2022. Guevarra says the mask mandates issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) prevail over the orders issued by local government units (LGUs). ALBERTO ALCAIN/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra shares his remarks with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during a meeting with key government officials at the Malacañang Palace on January 4, 2022. Guevarra says the mask mandates issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) prevail over the orders issued by local government units (LGUs). ALBERTO ALCAIN/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

The resolutions of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) on the mandatory wearing of face masks prevail over directives issued by local government units, according to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday (June 13)

This comes amid Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia’s announcement that masks are now “optional” in well-ventilated spaces in the province.

Guevarra said that orders of the IATF were backed by President Rodrigo Duterte’s own orders.

“The IATF resolutions on the mandatory wearing of face masks, whether indoor or outdoor, are incorporated in and/or enabled by executive orders issued by the president. As between an executive order issued by the president, as manifested in resolutions issued by the IATF composed of alter egos of the president, on one hand, and executive orders issued by local government units, on the other hand, the former shall prevail,” he stressed.

Guevarra cited Section 4, Article X of the Constitution which states the President has “general supervision” over local governments.

On June 9, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia issued Executive Order No. 16 which states that face masks are only required in closed or air-conditioned spaces.

However, The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año issued his own order to the police to arrest and penalize individuals who would follow the Cebu governor’s order.

The DILG also threatened to issue a show-cause order to Garcia as a “last step” if the local government’s policy on face masks stays unaligned with the national government.

‘Not safe yet’

Health expert Dr. Rontgene Solante said in a Laging Handa briefing on Monday (June 13) that outdoor spaces are not yet risk-free of COVID-19 transmission.

“Comparing a ventilated or open space and a closed indoor in terms of transmission, mas mataas ang risk sa indoor (the risk is higher indoors). But outdoor, it doesn’t also mean zero risk, especially sa mga matataong lugar – sa mga public market, sa mga public transportation system (especially in crowded places like in public markets, public transportation system),” Solante said.

He added that there are also still variants of concern with unknown status especially in provinces.

“Plus the fact na mayroon pa tayong mga variants of concern na hindi natin alam ang status especially in the provinces ‘no (we still have variants of concern with unknown status especially in provinces), I think it’s not safe yet to lift the mask mandate not only indoors but also outdoors,” he said.

Increase in number of cases

The Department of Health (DOH) has earlier expressed the possibility of Alert Level 2 in Metro Manila due to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases.

While Metro Manila is under Alert Level 1 until June 15, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that a higher level is possible if cases continue to increase.

However, Vergeire assured that while the growth rate is positive, the number of cases is still insignificant in terms of crippling hospitals’ operations, as hospital admissions remain manageable.

Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. She advocates for animal welfare and press freedom. Follow her twitter @polarubyo for regular news and cat postings.

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