By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte 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.
“Now I call [upon] LGUs. The national government needs your help during this time, but I want to tell you: Do not make this quarantine or quarantine more difficult for our people than it already is. LGUs should take note of this — that at this time let us make ourselves clear that we are not a separate from a republic or from each other,” he said during a taped national address Friday morning.
“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.
“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.
The country is currently under a state of calamity and a state of public health emergency following the sharp increase in coronavirus infections. Duterte has also placed Luzon under enhanced community quarantine, that requires millions of Filipinos to stay at home, to contain the spread of the new coronavirus disease.
The sweeping quarantine was initially declared in Metro Manila and later expanded to include entire Luzon. Confusion and chaos marred the initial implementation of the month-long quarantine, as many people were left stranded after public transport was suspended.
A former mayor of Davao City, Duterte explained that the national government should “call the shots,” especially amid this public health emergency, and the local government units should simply follow. Defying the national directives, he said, would only cause confusion.
At present, the IATF is the national government body in charge of laying down the standards for the Luzon quarantine, according to the President.
“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.
If the task force orders that movement of cargoes should be unimpeded, he said the local officials should just comply with the directive. He said they were setting their own standards and making the quarantine more difficult for all if they only allow food or essential goods to cross the borders.
“We do not want to be lording it over your local governments because we do not want to do that. I do not want to do that — that’s an added task. Ayaw na ayaw ko ‘yan pero wala tayong magawa. Sundin lang natin (I don’t like but we can’t do anything. Let’s just follow),” he said.
“Ang ibig sabihin do not — huwag kang magbiyahe ng sarili mo, sa Tagalog pa. Kung sa jueteng, huwag kang magpalaro ng iba. Huwag kang magbiyahe. Isa lang, sa gobyerno lang. Pero ako sa jueteng alam ko hindi niyo sinusunod. Well, there will always be a time for that,” he said.
In the coming days, Duterte said the national government would need the assistance of the local government units “more and more.” He said they must work together to implement the quarantine in Luzon.
“It should all begin with the LGUs making sure that your actions are consistent with the national directives. To do otherwise would sow confusion,” he said.
“All over the world, there is confusion and chaos already because of these lockdowns. We are not the only ones into it. All countries of the world, as a matter of fact, are doing it. And that is why it adds more trouble than what is already there that we can handle,” he added.
Even after the crisis is over, he said the government will have to look further and think of the economic survival of the country.
Prior to the airing of the President’s speech, Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte cautioned local government officials “not to go beyond” the quarantine guidelines of the national government or else risk facing charges.
Panelo said the President has received reports that some local officials were not following the “lockdown” guidelines issued by the task force. Some local officials have allegedly implemented their own measures that led to confusion and left people stranded on the road.