Local execs warned of charges if they fail to enforce mass gathering prohibitions, limitations

Published May 9, 2021, 8:43 AM

by Chito Chavez

Local chief executives (LCE) stand to face charges for dereliction of duty if they fail to enforce the prohibition or limitation on mass gatherings amid the coronavirus disease-2019 pandemic.

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año made the warning on on Sunday, May 9, citing that the local government units (LGUs) have a critical role in enforcing mass gathering regulations as they are nearer to their constituencies compared to the national government.’

He said LCEs can adopt and implement guidelines and policies of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) and enact necessary local policies to support these regulations.

In line with the President’s directive to the DILG, Año issued DILG Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 2021-050 reminding all LCEs that they will be sanctioned if found violating any of the prohibitions contained under the IATF Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation of Community Quarantine in the Philippines with Amendments as of April 15, 2021 which provides for the prohibitions and limitations on public and mass gatherings.

Any violation of the prohibitions in the Omnibus Guidelines shall constitute non-cooperation of the person or entities which is punishable under Section 9 paragraph (d) or (e) of Republic Act No. 11332 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR).

Failure on the part of local officials to enforce IATF resolutions may lead to charges filed against them for dereliction of duty based on Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code. Administrative sanction may likewise be imposed on them under the Local Government Code.

“Maaaring administrative complaint or criminal case ang isampa laban sa pabayang LCEs. Hindi po gusto ng DILG na dumating sa puntong gawin ito (file charges) kaya sana ipatupad nang maayos ng LGUs ang polisiya sa mass gatherings ayon sa quarantine classification sa kanilang lugar (Administrative complaint or criminal case maybe filed against negligent LCEs. The DILG does not want to reach this point so the LGUs must enforce the policy on mass gatherings properly in accordance with their respective quarantine classification),’’ Año said.

The DILG chief also reminded all higher LGUs to exercise their power of supervision over their component LGUs.

Through its Sanggunian, the LGUs at the instance of a concerned LCE, may hear any complaint for violation, misconduct, and/or dereliction of duty of lower LGU officials and impose sanctions as may be allowed by existing laws against an erring official.

Año has also directed the Philippine National Police (PNP) to strictly enforce all applicable guidelines and policies of the IATF especially on the prohibition on mass gatherings.

“The PNP should assist LGUs in the enforcement of all policies, laws both national and local, relative to the curtailment of the spread of COVID-19,” he added.

Citizen’s Feedback Mechanism

DILG Undersecretary and spokesperson Jonathan E. Malaya urged the public to file complaints to their local DILG Regional Offices (ROs) regarding the failure of their LCEs to implement mass gathering regulations.

Reporting may be done by emailing or calling the nearest DILG Regional Office or field office or the DILG Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at [email protected] and telephone number (02) 8876-3454 local 881 to 884.

“Don’t hesitate to lodge your complaints through your local DILG ROs so that appropriate actions may be taken upon verification,” Malaya said.

In accordance with the IATF Omnibus Guidelines as of April 15, 2021, Malaya said gatherings outside residences and gatherings at residences are prohibited in areas under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) and general community quarantine (GCQ) “but allowed up to 50 percent of seating or venue capacity for areas under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ).’’

Gatherings for the provision of government services and authorized humanitarian activities are allowed in all areas under ECQ, MECQ, GCQ, and MGCQ.

“Meanwhile, religious gatherings under ECQ are prohibited but religious ministers and their assistants may conduct religious services through online video recording and transmission.

Under MECQ, religious gatherings are allowed up to 10 percent but may be increased to 30 percent of seating capacity, subject to LGU regulations. Under GCQ, it is allowed up to 30 percent but may be increased to 50 percent of seating capacity, subject to LGU regulations. In areas under MGCQ, it is allowed up to 50 percent of seating capacity, limited to religious worship or service and subject to LGU regulations,’’ the DILG said.

The DILG clarified that gatherings for necrological services, wakes, inurnment and funerals for those who died of causes other than COVID-19 are allowed but only limited to family members in both ECQ and MECQ areas.

“In areas under GCQ, it is allowed up to 30 percent of venue capacity, but may be increased to 50 percent by LGU. Under MGCQ, it is allowed up to 50% of seating or venue capacity,’’ the DILG noted.

“Mass gatherings such as movie screenings, concerts, sporting events, entertainment activities, and work conferences are prohibited in areas under ECQ, MECQ, and GCQ. However, in areas under MGCQ it is allowed up to 50 percent of seating or venue capacity in compliance with ventilation standards set by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE),’’ it added.

The DILG also noted that LGU-initiated gatherings in areas under ECQ, MECQ, and GCQ are “limited to gatherings that are essential for the provision of health or government services or humanitarian activities and are subject to prior authority from the appropriate government agency or instrumentality. In areas under MGCQ it is allowed for any activity up to 50 percent of seating or venue capacity in compliance with ventilation standards set by the DOLE’’. (Chito A. Chavez)