By Genalyn Kabiling, Argyll Cyrus Geducos and Chito Chavez
President Duterte remains “fit and healthy,” Malacañang said Wednesday amid the spread of the new coronavirus in some parts of the country.
Presidential spokesman Savaldor Panelo said the President has not shown any symptoms of the new coronavirus disease.
“I would like to assure our countrymen that he’s fit and healthy. Wala siyang sakit. Wala siyang
sintomas ng kahit na ano (He has no illness. He has no symptoms of anything whatsoever),” Panelo said over television Thursday night.
The President continued to work despite reports that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III went on selfquarantine after reported exposure to a coronavirus case. Duque is reportedly waiting for the results of his coronavirus test.
Duterte held a meeting with several members of the inter-agency task force for the management of emerging infectious diseases Thursday night at the Malago clubhouse in Manila. ‘I am very sorry’
The President apologized to Filipinos for the “lockdown” implemented in Luzon but defended the government’s decision to effectively quell the coronavirus outbreak.
He said the national government carried out such “extreme measure” as the contagion continued to take its toll on some parts of the country.
“We are in a critical time. We have resorted to this extreme measure of enhanced quarantine for Luzon because the magnitude of the threat that we are facing calls for it,” Duterte said in a taped public address early Friday morning.
“By its nature, it severely restricts the freedom of movement of our countrymen and thus deprives many people of their ability of earning living for the coming weeks. Let me add my own words, I’m really very sorry but I have to do it,” he added.
The President warned local government units (LGUs) not to make the quarantine more difficult for the people, insisting that there is only “one Republic” and they should abide by the national government’s lockdown strategy in Luzon.
The President warned that local government officials may face possible charges if they would defy the national government’s quarantine regulations and set their own rules.
The entire government must “move in one direction, in one unison” to put the contagion in control and ensure better health of Filipinos, according to Duterte.
“We are not separate from a republic or from each other. There is only one republic here, the Republic of the Philippines and therefore, you should abide by the directives of the national government; when it sets, abide by the directives of the whole for the good of the country and the protocols observed during the time of the lockdown,” he said during a taped public address early Friday morning.
“I am ordering all LGUs that are doing this to stand down, and to abide by the directives of the IATF (inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases),” he said after a meeting with several officials of the task force overseeing government efforts to combat the spread of the new coronavirus.
Duterte said he has directed the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) “to closely monitor the compliance of LGUs with the directives and file the necessary cases against wayward officials.”
“If you go beyond the standards that we have set, you are abusing your authority, and you know that it can lead to – administrative cases or even worse, unless you stop what you are doing and [cooperate] fully. Criminal cases cannot be far behind,” he said.
“I know you have the mandate to deal with emergencies affecting your localities. I was a mayor myself, in case you have forgotten. But this is an emergency of national proportions, and therefore it is the national government that should call the shots,” he said.
He said the government needs the help of LGUs at this “critical time” but reminded them not to make the quarantine “more difficult for our people than it already is.
“Do not try to overdo things or think that you can do what you want to do because that is not allowed,” he said.
Stop pitting LGUs against each other
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles Malacañang appealed to the public to just cooperate instead of pitting local government units (LGUs) against each other amid the enhanced community quarantine being implemented in Luzon.
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año clarified on Friday that the local government units (LGUs) have no authority to suspend international and domestic flights even during extreme health emergencies like the COVID19.
Año said that what the LGUs can do is to coordinate with the concerned government agencies if they see it necessary to suspend local or international flights.
He called on the LGUs to follow the set of guidelines imposed by the IATF and not implement their own policies especially when it comes to the movement of cargo and goods.
DILG Undersecretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya said some local government officials have been prohibiting the entry of goods in a bid to protect their constituents from the coronavirus disease 2019.