Nalzaro: Local leaders’ approach to crisis


THE quarantine status of Cebu City, Cebu Province and other local government units (LGUs) will be known today when President Rodrigo Duterte will face again the nation through his radio and television address. I presumed the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has already come up with recommendations on the possible status of the various LGUs all over the country. However, the President has the final say on the matter. But, usually, the chief executive’s pronouncement will be based on the IATF recommendations.

There are speculations that Cebu City’s status will be reverted to enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) because of the rising positive cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). As of late Saturday tally, there were already 3,434 confirmed cases with 1,858 recoveries and 37 deaths. Health officials claimed that the huge volume of daily increase was due to the delay or backlog in the analysis of the specimens forwarded to the Department of Health (DOH 7) hired laboratories.

But if Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella has his way, he wants that Cebu City will stay under the general community quarantine (GCQ) status. He wants that some of the restrictions will be maintained. He said that, if we will shift to modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) status, some establishments like movie houses, cockfighting arenas and contact sports and public utility jeepneys will be allowed to open and operate and there is big possibility of a massive community transmission of the virus.

In the province, Gov. Gwen Garcia wants to relax the restrictions. She wants the province to be placed under MGCQ so her constituents can already “move on” and go back to their normal lives. In fact, she personally appealed to the Task Force for the province’s GCQ status arguing that there are minimal positive cases in the Province. She doesn’t want to be lumped or packaged under Cebu City’s status.

Gwen personally met with Task Force implementer Carlito Galvez, during the latter’s visit here recently, who assured her that her request to lower the Province‘s status will be thoroughly discussed by the Task Force.

Well, Gwen has her own reason why she wants to lower the status. She has been saying that she wants to go back to normal by relaxing the restrictions, saying the positive cases in the Province are not alarming compared to the city. But while going back to the normal, she doesn’t want to lower the guards on the possible spread of the virus in the province. She still wants that her constituents follow the protocols imposed by health authorities. Other diseases such as dengue are more alarming with more fatalities compared with Covid-19, she said.

Even in testing, the governor has another approach. She wants that only those showing symptoms and exposed to Covid-19 positive will be tested, and not just anybody. She also adopted the Singaporean protocol and some states in the US that don’t re-test those confirmed positive as long as the symptoms are already gone. They will be categorized already as “recoveries.” The DOH recently adopted this no testing protocol for suspected, probable and confirmed Covid cases as long as the symptoms are gone after 72 hours without any medical intervention.

Each leader has his or her own style of leadership. Considering that this is our first experience, this pandemic is a litmus test on how our leaders responded and handled the situation depending on the situation in their respective areas. Local leaders should be given enough leeway to handle the situation because they know their territorial jurisdiction well. I agree with Gwen when she said: “Sometimes, it is so difficult if there is a national policy that does not seem to consider the reality on the ground and what the people need.” This refers to the motorcycle backriding policy.

Meanwhile, Mayor Edgardo Labella has been criticized and bashed on social media for his “weak leadership” in handling the pandemic. Labella has his own shortcomings, but he is not a weak leader. This is the first time that we experience this crisis so our leaders are not really prepared to respond to the situation. Again, may I quote Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Macaundas Hadjirasul: “No one can claim to have been truly prepared for this crisis. Our leaders have to make innumerable decisions daily without sufficient precedents, information, time, manpower, resources and even mobility. Let’s be less judgmental.”

US President Donald Trump and other leading world leaders are criticized for mishandling the pandemic despite their huge resources. But some leaders especially women leaders like New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern are praised for their best response in handling the crisis. Kamo kunoy mag-governor o mag-mayor unya naa ning maong problema, lalim ba? (If you were governor or mayor and you have this kind of problem, would you be able to deal with it?)