SITIO Zapatera’s lockdown became total on April 11 while Barangay Guadalupe’s lockdown was heightened starting April 15. And Labangon, another barangay, was bracing this week for its own total lockdown.
But wait. These places are all in Cebu City and the city has been under “enhanced community quarantine” or as simplified separately by President Rodrigo Duterte and Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia, are in lockdown.
Why would a part of a local government, which is already in lockdown, still need to be locked down?
We know quarantine in the Philippines is in stages—from “general” to “enhanced”–but an ECQ or lockdown is a lockdown. Can it go any further?
No shades of ECQ
A lockdown does not shift from one phase to another. It has no shades or degrees, at least not under the rules of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases. IATF still has to tell the nation about it. But then it has not even given much attention to the state of quarantine outside Luzon.
It’s only now, in Cebu City, that we hear of parts of the city, Zapatera and Guadalupe, being further shuttered. Is that possible?
No, unless:  the sitio and the barangay were not locked down in the strict sense of the term and now the ECQ rules are being enforced strictly, or  this is another strategy, in which parts of an LGU where infestation of the virus is high are isolated from the rest of the government unit and, for want of another name, they also call it lockdown.
A number of those who complained about rampant violation of ECQ prohibitions must suspect that the lockdown within a lockdown is the response of authorities to the problem.
People in a sitio or barangay are ignoring the rules? Cases of monitored or investigated patients there are shooting up? Lock the area down!
The Abellanosa proposal
The idea might have also sprung from the April 6 proposal of Rep. Bebot Abellanosa. Although what the Cebu City south congressman suggested was “staggered lifting” of the quarantine, the premise of his plan is also valid in the kind of enforcement of ECQ rules.
And that is localized lockdowns or quarantines: “By barangays, clusters, or puroks or sitios, and by communities like construction, food production, manufacturing, call centers, building maintenance, and others.”
Which recognizes that conditions may differ in localities and even within one locality, where people can reopen business and where they must keep the restrictions or loosen or tighten enforcement.
Unavoidably, the problem of crossing borders comes up, which requires reconciling existing rules with new conditions set off by the lockdown within the lockdown.
That, along with the question of who decides the lockdown of a sitio or barangay within the city. The barangay captain and the barangay council? How about the city mayor whose authority and guidelines may be upended by the decision within the sitio or barangay?
For example, would a border-crosser need a pass, other than his ECQ pass from City Hall, in commuting to and from Zapatera or Guadalupe? If the ECQ pass from the mayor is still honored, is it not modified or superseded by the restriction within the new lockdown site?
Questions on legality of the exercise in authority may be put off until normalcy returns but the rules must be explained to the confused resident. With barangays and sitios closing borders on one another, what are changes in guidelines?
Complicating the problem
When proposals on the lifting of ECQs, including the Abellanosa plan, were raised, decision-makers were advised to assess conditions well. The World Health Organization has its list of rigid terms for exit. We don’t suppose mayors and governors will reopen business, school and play without consulting the national government through IATF.
Caution, though in lesser degree, is also called for in locking down within a locked-down city, town or province.
A situation where barangays or even sitios within a barangay close borders on one another would not just be confusing. It would complicate the problem of complying with and surviving the quarantine.