Seares: Police region chief complains on extra CQ passes in Cebu City. Earlier, IATF's Garganera griped on premature release of mayor's order.

News Sense

IS IT true, as Police Regional Office-Central Visayas chief Brigadier General Albert Ignatius Ferro reportedly said, that decisions on waging the campaign against Covid-19 in Cebu City are "collegial," meaning the city mayor cannot by himself decide on matters involving the plague?

Ferro has publicly complained about City Hall's unilateral action. Earlier, Councilor Joel Garganera, deputy IATF implementer for the city, lamented the "premature" release of the mayor's executive order on granular lockdown.

More people on streets

Two recent moves that Mayor Edgardo Labella allegedly made on his own, without the permission of the others in the "advisory" group, including IATF overseer for Cebu Roy Cimatu:

[1] The mayor ordered the printing of 175,000 QR-coded quarantine passes, only 3,000 fewer than the 178,000 pieces City Hall released last June. Only 50,000 of the newly printed passes had not yet been released, City Administrator Floro Casas Jr. said.

[2] The mayor lifted the suspension of the passes on Sundays. Before the order, the CQ passes could not be used one day each week, on Sundays.

What must rankle IATF supervisors is the apparent effect of the orders: they increase the number of people out on the streets by more than 100 percent during the GCQ (general community quarantine) status of the city from August 1 to 15.

The purpose of passes

DILG Secretary Eduardo Ano earlier announced that such passes would not be needed under a GCQ. Yet Mayor Labella chose to keep them, under the option given by the national task force to LGUs: they can keeping using the passes if local conditions demand it.

Labella's purpose: he needed to limit the number of authorized persons outside their residences (Apors) and help reduce the transmission of coronavirus. He feared a new surge of infections, which dragged the city back to enhanced quarantine or ECQ in the preceding "quincena" (from July 16 to 31), a condition that embarrassed Cebu City on the national stage.

Yet his orders on additional CQ passes and the removal of the Sunday ban would seem to negate the avowed purpose.

Layers of authority

One can only speculate on how much the lines of functions in government are being redrawn by the Covid-19 pandemic. The reason is that layers of authority have not been fully and clearly spelled out.

Yes, there are omnibus guidelines on the various kinds of quarantine. There was the Bayan to Heal as One Act; soon there will be the sequel Bayanihan to Recover Act.

The laws tell us explicitly enough that the Inter-agency Task Force on Managing the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) and the office of the president call the shots on strategy in the campaign against the plague.

Where there are gaps

What the public is not told are the authority and functions in the lower level.

We know about the appointment of DENR secretary as IATF "overseer" for Cebu, the existence of a regional IATF task force and an Emergency Operations Center, and the appointment of Councilor Garganera to the IATF post.

How do IATF operations bear on the functions of the local chief executive and his own task force? Must IATF approval be sought even on the local government's implementation of national policies?

Garganera, now Ferro

Recall that just recently, Garganera as IATF official complained about the premature release of the mayor's executive order listing five places that would be locked down.

Gargamera was looking at a list of 21 barangays covered by the lockdown plan while the mayor had only five in his executive order. That confused people who until now are not sure whether a lockdown order covers only a specified part of a barangay or the entire local unit.

Who decides which places get into the list? Must not IATF, through Garganera, approve content and publication of the mayor's EO since IATF as central authority also helps provide resources to enforce the order? But, from the viewpoint of City Hall, doesn't the mayor's word prevail since city funds feed the people in the locked-down area? Then came Ferro's complaint about the additional CQ passes and the scrapping of the Sunday ban on their use.

Stubbornness, confusion

The mayor must know about the "collegial" decision-making the region's police chief talked about. Yet basing on Ferro's gripe, Labella chose to go ahead with the twin moves without consulting the "advisers."

We Cebuanos have been criticized about our alleged stubbornness in obeying restrictions on behavior during the period of emergency.

How much of it comes from confusion over conflicting or unclear voices at the top?


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