PHOTO CAPTION: Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia discussed with the provincial police commander that the Protocol of the province must be maintained for OFWs and returning overseas Filipinos saying that she has the mandate and she followed procedure which was approved by a provincial ordinance.
The Philippine government has implemented various levels of community quarantines and other health protocols in a bid to contain the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The government has also created various task forces. While it is true that health protocols have significantly helped reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in some parts of the Philippines, it is undeniable that these had also caused confusion especially in the provinces where there are now rising cases of the virus.
For instance, the inter-agency task force leading the Philippines’ COVID-19 response has implemented a policy, requiring fully vaccinated Filipinos to undergo a seven-day quarantine period.
This imperial approach to government policy has also been put to a test by local government officials, specifically Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia. She stood firm with her requirement of only testing overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and residents returning from abroad on their arrival at Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA).
Garcia’s defiance prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to order the provincial government to follow guidelines set by the national pandemic task force. She said that Cebu's health protocols are not only embodied in an executive order, but also in a provincial ordinance. “As we all know, a provincial ordinance, unless declared ultra vires (beyond one’s legal power or authority) in a proper court, is the local law of the land, in accordance with Republic Act No. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code,” Garcia said.
Governor Garcia has the mandate to enforce rules in her jurisdiction as she knows what is happening on the ground. Garcia is only thinking about the welfare of her constituents and it is her job to help her people in times of disasters.
The provincial government should be given the power to come up with and implement local policies and health protocols as it is the local government that also looks for solutions in times of crisis.
It is worth noting also that under Section 27 of the local government code, “no project or program” shall be implemented by the national government without prior consultations and prior approval of the local government concerned.