By Chito Chavez
With the soaring number of novel coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) cases causing extreme panic and alarm in the country, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Friday compelled the concerned local government officials to follow the President’s order of providing lawful assistance and adhering to the standard regulations pertaining to the enforcement of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
DILG Secretary Eduardo Año was infuriated over reports that errant barangay officials are charging fees from P20 to P50 in exchange for the issuance of the quarantine passes.
Quarantine passes are issued by the barangays to one member of a household who are allowed to purchase the essential items needed by their families.
In an earlier interview, DILG Undersecretary and spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said that quarantine passes are given for free.
In a bid to rid the government of scalawags, Malaya encouraged the public to report any corrupt acts of public officials to the police or to the DILG.
He also blasted the unprincipled barangay officials for taking advantage of the unfavorable predicament of their constituents at this time of health crisis.
With various complaints about erring local officials coming in, Año warned that mayors and other local officials who are neglecting their duties and engaging in nefarious activities may face suspension or termination.
He added that it is within the power of the President to impose sanctions “if a mayor or even a governor abuses his authority or defies an order.’’
Año warned that the DILG can immediately put rogue local officials under preventive suspension for 60 days even before the investigation is conducted or the President can also dismiss any local chief “kung kinakailangan (when needed).’’
On a brighter note, Año reported that at present the LGUs are compliant with the President’s order, with some even imposing stricter measures.
Under these circumstances, Año reminded the concerned LGUs to follow the provisions imposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) pertaining to the imposition of the ECQ.
The DILG has also started to scale down the overbearing and more stringent regulations of the LGUs in compliance with the IATF ruling.
In a related development, Año interjected some flexibility on the part of barangay officials in the issuance of the quarantine pass to senior citizens.
The DILG has received numerous complaints that some senior citizens were not issued quarantine passes as the barangays deemed them as most vulnerable to COVID-19.
But Año explained that the rule on the issuance of the quarantine pass is not “absolute’’ can be treated on “a case to case basis’’.
He insisted barangay officials should exercise their wisdom and common sense if members of a household includes only senior citizens or those aged 60 years old and above.