Seares: Lockdown it is. Manila calls shots but LGUs are mostly on their own

The Short of It

To use or not to use the word

THAT term which many LGUs, notably Cebu Province, has been reluctant to use -- "lockdown" -- is now being used ("We are going into lockdown").

Governor Gwen Garcia didn't want a lockdown, fearing for the loss of livelihood of more people. So she kept resisting the conversion to "enhanced community quarantine," which is euphemism for "lockdown," by citing the requirement of two confirmed positive cases of Covid-19 infection in two different LGUs. But oddly, when she did shift gears, she used as reason two confirmed cases outside the jurisdiction of the province. But then, that's already academic with the sudden upsurge that comes with increased number of tests.

As used by other people, in Luzon and outside the country, a place is in lockdown if ingress or egress is prohibited. Note "or." Thus, the Philippines has long been counted by Covid-19 watchers as a country in lockdown although (1) only Luzon was then under "community enhanced quarantine" (2) total ban on entry and exit was never imposed.

Capitol though has preferred not to use "lockdown," insisting the travel ban in Cebu province is only on those coming in, not on those going out. Under the "enhanced stage," which they're now willing to call "lockdown," incoming international flights are banned but "outbound passengers" may still go out.

Whatever the accurate term, people may be less confused if they stick to the language that the inter-agency task force uses, meaning the "enhanced" stage on which all the Cebu LGUs have stepped.

All the people need is a plain and specific list of what cannot be done during the lockdown, er, the enhanced quarantine.

Central authority upheld

MANILA'S THE BOSS. Republic Act 11469, called the "Bayanihan To Heal As One Act," clearly provides the supremacy of the National Government on quarantine policies and rules and regulations on the corona virus crisis.

One, all LGUs must "act within the spirit and letter" of the central government's orders and guidelines. Two, they must comply with the standards of community quarantine set by the National Government. The requirement that the compliance "shall be neither more nor less," than what the central authority prescribes has been removed. Still, the law is clear: National Government, represented by the inter-agency task force on epidemics and the office of the president, "calls the shots" (President Duterte's phrase).

Subsidy to poor, health workers

18M HOUSEHOLDS. Noteworthy in the law, which takes effect upon publication in a newspaper of general circulation or the Official Gazette, is that it gives subsidy to 18 million low-income households, which will get from P5,000 to P8,000 a month per household for two months. The regional wages and what some of the poor are getting now as subsidy will be considered in computing the subsidy. Meaning, they will get less? The implementing rules will help.

Health workers, public and private, will receive "special risk allowance" on top of what they're getting as hazard pay under the Magna Carta for Workers. All their medical expenses will be borne by Philhealth; each infection will be compensated by P100,000 and each death by one million pesos.

Emergency powers

NOW THEY'RE 'SPECIAL.' While they tried to avoid using the word "emergency" to describe the powers given to the president, the final law RA 11469 bears the term "temporary emergency measures," though not in the title of the act but in Section 4 titled "Authorized powers."

The title uses "emergency" in naming the Covid-19 crisis: "national emergency." The title describes the powers as "necessary and proper." Government publicists call them "special powers."


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