Our country’s policies to fight the coronavirus pandemic may be deemed sensible, yet its implementation still seems to lack what’s needed most: an approach that is more aggressive, massive, fast, focused, unified, coordinated, and monitored.
And the best way to start improving implementation of our national policies, including the strategy, programs and guidelines formulated by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, is to designate the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) as the chief implementer.
I believe the DILG is best suited for the job. Why? For so many reasons—first and foremost is that it’s the department which has a complete organization all the way down to the grassroots level, and that its primary function is to oversee and supervise local government units tasked to provide many devolved services especially those pertaining to health and social welfare.
In the fight against the adverse effects of the rampaging coronavirus pandemic, operational command is of utmost importance if overall success is to be achieved in the implementation of battle plans. With how the DILG is structured as an organization, operational command can be seamless.
Efficiency can be derived mainly because the DILG has organic personnel in all levels. It has regional directors with complete staff, aside from provincial local government officers and their staff, city local government officers with staff, as well as municipal local government officers.
With its organizational structure, the DILG is superior. It is so unlike the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), for instance, which has no organization at the grassroots mainly because its functions have been devolved to the LGUs by virtue of the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991. In fact, all DSWD offices in the various regions should have been phased out in 1993 when the LGC was already fully in effect. What should have remained only are the DSWD offices at the regional level for purposes of monitoring and providing technical services to LGUs.
The LGC paved the way for the delegation or devolution to LGUs of many functions that used to be handled not only by the DSWD but also other national government agencies like the Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, and others. Thus, health personnel and health facilities are now under LGUs.
With all the provincial hospitals, provincial health personnel, city health officers, municipal health officers and corresponding facilities under the appropriate LGUs, it is only logical that the DILG should be the one to oversee the delivery of health services particularly during this pandemic.
As chief implementer of the national policies and programs to fight the pandemic, the DILG can effectively and efficiently exercise operational command to get things done in a manner more aggressive, massive, fast, focused, unified, coordinated, and monitored.
And the DILG has the legal backing to do so. Under the Constitution, the Office of the President exercises general supervision over LGUs through the DILG, with its Secretary acting as the alter ego of the President.
With health services devolved to LGUs, the DILG indeed plays a more pivotal role than any other department. The DILG, on behalf of the Office of the President, must ensure local governments carry out their responsibilities within their inherent powers and under the laws.
The DOH, on the other hand, formulates the national strategy, in coordination with DILG, and other departments like the Departments of Labor and Employment, Transportation, and Defense. This is done thru the IATF which was created in 2014 under Executive Order 168 “to establish preparedness and ensure efficient government response to assess, monitor, contain, control, and prevent the spread of any potential epidemic in the Philippines.”
The strategy and programs to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic have been laid out since March 16 when the government thru Proclamation No. 929 declared a “State of Calamity throughout the Philippines due to coronavirus disease 2019.” It followed Proclamation No. 922 issued on March 8 which put under a “state of public health emergency” the entire country. The IATF then issued the Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation of Community Quarantine with amendments.
The government’s efforts in coming out with such proclamations and the ensuing strategic policies, programs, and guidelines are commendable. But implementation is the most crucial factor in ensuring success. And the chances of success for the national policies may be better with the DILG as chief implementer.
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