Authorities, hotels may face charges should they violate Cebu’s 'swab-upon-arrival' policy

Published June 22, 2021, 6:00 PM

by Calvin Cordova 

CEBU CITY – Criminal charges may be filed against those who will violate a provincial ordinance requiring an immediate swab test for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and Returning Filipino Overseas (ROFs) arriving at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA).

The stern warning came from Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia as she issued on Monday Executive Order (EO) No. 23 that warns concerned authorities and hotels tasked to accommodate arriving overseas Filipinos to abide Provincial Ordinance No. 2021-05 or the Swab-Upon-Arrival policy.

“This is a warning to everyone that those who will violate the Provincial Ordinance may be subject to criminal (and administrative) charges because there is an existing law of the province,” said Garcia.

The issuance of the EO came after the province and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-MEID) continued to clash with regards to quarantine policies involving arriving OFWs and ROFs.

Garcia revealed that Filipino passengers who arrived at MCIA last Sunday were not swabbed for COVID-19 tests.

The governor said airport authorities and law enforcers reportedly received verbal instructions from IATF members that swab testing should only be collected on the seventh day.

Local police were also instructed that passengers arriving at MCIA must stay for 10 days in their designated quarantine hotels, the governor said.

Garcia then met with officials from the Department of Health (DOH-7), Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ-7), Department of Tourism (DOT-7), and the Hotels, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC) before issuing EO No. 23.

“Violating the ordinance could expose them to possible charges of illegal detention, serious illegal detention, and kidnapping for holding a person against their will. The only reason you can hold a person in a hotel if there is an existing law,” said Garcia.

Administrative charges will also be filed for not following the provincial ordinance, said Garcia.

“Let us be reminded that this is still a government of laws and not of men. And as such, in Cebu, there is an existing ordinance which clearly spells out the Swab-Upon-Arrival protocol,” Garcia said.