THE Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has given the Provincial Government of Cebu until the weekend to “amend, rectify or adjust” its newly passed ordinance making the wearing of face masks in open and well-ventilated areas in the province optional.

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año on Thursday, June 16, 2022, said they are giving the Cebu Provincial Government a chance to align its ordinance to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 151, which adopts the guidelines on the implementation of the Alert Level system in the country amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) as recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).

The said IATF guidelines highlighted the continuous observance of minimum public health standards, which includes the mandatory wearing of face masks in all areas under any alert level.

Should the Cebu Provincial Government still refuse to comply, the DILG will exhaust all legal remedies against them, including Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia, as ordered by the Office of the President.

“Well, kailangan meron tayong batas na RA (Republic Act) 11332. So may mga provisions doon sa mga penal provision at titingnan natin kung ano ang pupuwedeng i-apply diyan. Tapos pangalawa, siyempre meron din ‘yang administrative sanctions and cases that we can apply like, for example, kung hindi naaayon sa ethical ‘yung ginawa nila, papasok pa rin sa RA 3019, which is anti-graft and corrupt practices,” said Año.

(We have to enforce RA 11332. We have penal provisions in that law and we will see what could be applied. Second, it also has administrative sanctions and cases we can apply like, for example, if what they are doing is not ethical, we can enforce RA 3019, which is the act on anti-graft and corruption practices.)

RA 11332 is the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act, which aims to protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness.

“Lahat ng options ay gagawin natin dito at ito naman ay meron din instruction ang Office of the President na we should seek all remedies at kung wala ay we can also pursue legal actions... Maybe over the weekend, we will give them a chance to rectify. After the weekend then we will do whatever is necessary,” he added.

(We will exhaust all the options here. The Office of the President also has an instruction that we should seek all remedies and if there are none, we can also pursue legal actions... Maybe over the weekend, we will give them a chance to rectify. After the weekend, we can do whatever is necessary.)

'2 more weeks'

Año said the Cebu Provincial Government, as well as Garcia, is not going against any person but the rule of law itself.

“Ngayon, hindi naman ibig sabihin na dalawang linggo na lang yan ay hindi na natin dapat sundin yun. Hindi naman kami ang nagpapatupad nito. Ito ay batas na para sa lahat at hindi rin naman sinasabi na ibinoto ako ng one million something Filipinos in Cebu, yun ang masusunod,” he said.

(Now, even though most of us in office only have two weeks, we should stop following orders. We are not the ones who implemented this order. This is a law for everyone. Just because one million something Filipinos voted (for her), that is what should be followed.)

Año made the statement when asked to respond to Garcia's pronouncement that it will be his legacy if he will file a case against her in his last 15 days in office.

“If Secretary Año really intends to file a case against me, then that is his prerogative. It will be his legacy that he will leave behind long after he has ended his tenure as secretary of [DILG], which should happen in about 15 days time. He is no longer the secretary of DILG in 15 days, but if he files the case, it stays so it will be his legacy,” said Garcia.

“Hindi rin naman yun ‘yung basehan kasi walang logic doon. Even if you ask the 1.2 million, hindi yan lahat papayag na tanggalin ‘yung mandatory wearing of mask at ang ating pandemic ‘yung state of calamity through EO 1218 ay hanggang September 2022 pa kasi nga may pandemic pa rin. So tuloy-tuloy pa rin yan even the next administration, carry over pa rin ‘yung tinatawag nating state of calamity and state of public health emergency... So wala yan mababago. Devoid of logic ‘yung sinasabi na two weeks na lang kayo,” he added.

(That basis is illogical. Even if you ask the 1.2 million people who voted, not everyone will agree with the relaxed face mask rule. The state of calamity through EO 1218 will be until September 2022 because we are still in a pandemic. The order will still carry over to the next administration. Nothing will change. When you say, “you only have two weeks,” it’s devoid of logic.)

‘Follow national orders’

Año reiterated his call for the public not to follow ordinances that deviates the order of the national government as it may endanger one’s life.

He recalled the order of Duterte for the public to continue wearing face masks, especially in public places to avoid contracting the virus.

“Sa ating mga kababayan, hindi pa talaga tapos ang pandemic. Binabantayan pa natin ‘yung mga Covid cases na nagkaroon ng konting uptick in the last days... Ayon sa ating mga medical experts and scientists ang pag-iimplement ng minimum public health standards at saka ng vaccination ang pinaka epektibo bakit mababa ‘yung ating Covid cases compared to other countries,” he said.

(To our countrymen, the pandemic is not yet over. We are still monitoring the Covid cases that have had a slight uptick in the last few days. According to our medical experts and scientists, the implementation of minimum public health standards and vaccination are the reasons why our Covid cases are low compared to other countries.)

“Ang ating mga kababayan ay huwag malilito sapagkat ito ang pinatutupad ng national government down to the local government. Kung merong mga sumalungat diyan at sumuway ay huwag niyo sundin yan kasi mapapahamak ang inyong buhay diyan at baka yan pa ang maging sanhi kung babalik ang Covid surges at maapektuhan at magkasakit tayo,” he added.

(Our countrymen should not be confused because this is what the national government is implementing down to the local government. If there are those who oppose and disobey the rules, don't follow them because your life will be ruined there and that may even be the cause if a Covid surge returns and we will be affected and get sick.)

Año maintained that the national government does not recognize the Cebu ordinance on face masks, reiterating that it was defective and has no legal basis. (SunStar Philippines)