By Chito Chavez
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on March 30, Monday, ordered the immediate re-opening of a private hospital in Angeles City that was closed by the city mayor after it admitted a COVID-19 patient and other persons under investigation (PUIs) from Quezon City.
In explaining the directive, DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said the action of Mayor Carmelo Lazatin, Jr. to close the Philippine Rehabilitation Institute Medical Center (PRIMC) is contrary to the recently passed Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
He explained that the law declares as a policy the immediate and ample provision of healthcare to COVID-19 patients, PUIs, or persons under monitoring (PUMs), and to promote and protect the collective interests of all Filipinos in these challenging times.
Lazatin has since complied with the directive of the DILG and the said hospital is now operational as of press time and is now accepting COVID-19 patients.
“Hinimok po namin ang alkalde ng Angeles City na buksan muli ang PRIMC ngayong nasa gitna tayo ng COVID-19 crisis (We urge the mayor of Angeles City to open PRIMC while we’re in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis). We are in a critical time where there is urgency to provide health service to PUIs, PUMs, [and] COVID-19 patients, whether they are your constituents or patients from other places,” Año said.
“Access to health care is for everyone regardless of demography and identity. Local chief executives (LCEs) should not discriminate against non-residents in times of crisis, in the same way that doctors have an oath to save lives,” he added.
The DILG Chief is reminding LCEs not to exceed their authority, pointing out that obstructing regular hospital operations, whether public or privately-owned, threatens the safety of not only the patients but also the general welfare of the community.
Año stressed that the DILG, as the agency mandated to assist the President in the general supervision of local government units (LGUs), is helping ensure the implementation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act empowered the President to ensure that all LGUs are acting within the letter and spirit of all the rules, regulations, and directives issued by the national government pursuant to the law.
“The Bayanihan Law mandates the government to partner with the private sector and other stakeholders to deliver measures and programs quickly and efficiently. What the PRIMC has done in attending to patients is only proper. That should not be a ground to abruptly order its closure,”said Año.
DILG Undersecretary and spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said Section 6 of the Bayanihan Act penalizes LGU officials disobeying national government policies or directives in imposing quarantine, as well as owners of privately owned hospitals that unjustifiably refuse to operate pursuant to the directive of the President.
“The DILG is again reminding all local government officials to fully cooperate with the national government toward a unified, cohesive, and orderly implementation of national policy to address COVID-19. The Bayanihan Act allows LGUs to continue exercising autonomy but within the parameters the national government has set. But please do not exceed your mandate and show compassion to all, not just your constituents,” said Malaya.
He also clarified that LGUs are not allowed to restrict the movement of cargoes and people involved in food production and delivery including fish canneries.
“The free movement of all types of cargoes especially food and medicine supplies is important to our food security as a nation. Therefore, LGUs cannot imperil the food security of our nation by restricting the movement of cargoes across the country,” Malaya concluded.