THE SITUATION. Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama on Wednesday, January 19, said he won't enforce National Capital Region's "no vaccination, no ride" policy in his city. Until there's an order from the national government, he said, public utility vehicles here may accept everyone, including the unvaccinated. Meaning, he will follow the national order only when it comes.
But on the "no vaccination, no entry" policy, Mayor Mike embraced the rule in his January 19 executive order banning, among others, the unvaccinated from malls and indoor venues in the city.
Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, on the same day, said she disapproves of the "no-vaccination, no ride" policy. She also put her foot down on the "no vaccination, no entry" policy implemented by other LGUs like Cebu City, backing her principle with a January 19 memorandum order (3-2022) to all mayors in the Capitol's jurisdiction to refrain from "requiring the presentation of a vaccination card for any educational, employment and other similar government transaction."
WHAT STRIKES THE PUBLIC at once is this: The chief local executives of the two biggest LGUs in Cebu have contrasting beliefs on an important matter -- the vaccination cards -- in the government response to the pandemic. The mayor wants it used to encourage vaccination; the governor sees it as a tool of oppression.
Mayor Mike favors the no vax, no entry rule against the unvaccinated and includes it in his executive order. Guv Gwen disagrees with the no vax, no entry policy and reminds her mayors to avoid it from any government transaction. Mike will implement the no vax, no ride rule once it comes from Manila. Gwen does not like it but doesn't say if she'll disobey a national order to enforce it here.
NO DEFIANCE. Neither LGU leader is defying national government policy, for now.
The governor appears to comply with national policy under Republic Act 11525, which establishes the vaccination program against the coronavirus. She cited the part that says "vaccine cards shall not be considered as an additional mandatory requirement for educational, employment, and other similar government transaction purposes." Her memo to the mayors echoes that prohibition of the law and doesn't go beyond that.
Notice that Gwen's memo doesn't touch on any ban on private establishments catering to the public. That gives private owners the discretion to impose their own rules, provided none will violate any express government order. Thus, in the 44 towns and six component cities of Cebu, malls and similar businesses may or may not require the vax cards, while in Cebu City, there is an express order from City Hall to require the cards for admission.
NO COLLISION, YET. The governor has expressed her opposition to the no vax, no ride policy, calling it "anti-poor" and repeating once more her belief that vaccination is a matter of choice. "Give that respect to the individual," CNN quoted her Wednesday. Yet it has not come to the point where she is defying the order. There's no order yet. With the confusion in Metro Manila, it may not come soon but when it does, she can make her choice, as she did in that imbroglio last year over airport arrival protocol.
Different rules among the LGUs -- because of different mindsets of their leaders -- but they don't directly clash or collide yet. Still, it is setting up the stage for similar incidents in the earlier part of the coronavirus emergency when rules in Cebu City differed from those in the province. One time, the governor called out an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) official, a councilor, for interfering with Capitol rules at the airport.
TOO SOON TO FORECAST failure of the agreement among Metro Cebu mayors and the governor regarding a united front on the anti-Covid campaign.
Last January 7, Cebu Province and the tri-cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu announced they agreed that the anti-Covid policy of entire Cebu should be uniform. The three city mayors met the night before with the mayor and Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Lloyd Dino and discussed the need for similar guidelines and regulations in dealing with the pandemic. Typhoon Odette increased the urgency of being united so as to speed up rehabilitation and recovery, Guv Gwen stressed.
They started the posture of a "One Cebu" by agreeing on similar border restrictions.
THE LAST WORD. Now the apparent differences of policy seen from the mayor and the governor are still mostly talk. As cited earlier, there is yet no direct and frontal clash. And local policy-making has not yet crossed lines of national fiat. The gap may still be bridged but surely, the posture shaping up does not look like the kind they want to present to their public and the decision makers in central government.
It could bolster the IATF and Palace argument for having the last word over the LGUs in a time of emergency and crisis.
January 20, 2022
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