DILG gives Cebu governor time to 'rectify' order on face masks but hints at cases

DILG gives Cebu governor time to 'rectify' order on face masks but hints at cases
An airport bus driver wears a face mask at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport on June 8, 2022.
Philstar.com / Jonathan de Santos

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of the Interior and Local Government said Thursday it might file cases against Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia for her provincial order declaring face masks optional outdoors.

To recall, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia issued Executive Order No. 16 making the wearing of face masks outdoors and in open spaces optional despite government guidelines requiring them.

"We'll be giving the Cebu provincial government [a chance] to rectify and adjust their ordinance and executive order to be consistent with the [national government's] guidelines...after the weekend, then we'll do whatever is necessary," Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said in Filipino at a press briefing Thursday morning. 

"I'm consulting with my legal team. We won't announce it yet, we'll just do what is legal and what is commensurate to that particular kind of action of the Cebu provincial government...There is only one President of the Philippines and we should follow all legal orders of the Chief Executive."

The DILG chief reiterated his department's stance that it does not recognize the Cebu government's executive order, saying the PNP would still apprehend people following their local government's order if they were caught not wearing face masks in public places. 

According to the Department of Health, COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila have been increasing since mid-May and have climbed to more than 100 cases per day in June 2022. At least 1,889 new cases from June 7 to June 13 were recorded nationwide, with the current positivity rate at 1.9 percent.

According to Año, the Cebu provincial ordinance "violates the following national laws:"

  • EO 151 series of 2021 which makes wearing of face masks mandatory under all alert levels;
  • EO 168 s, 2014 which created the Inter-Agency Task Force with functions to pass measures that will prevent the local spread of COVID 19 including the mandatory wearing of face masks;
  • EO 1218 which placed the country under a state of calamity from September 13, 2021 to September 12, 2022;
  • Republic Act No. 11332 which authorized the President to declare a state of public health emergency.

Executive Orders are not laws as they were not passed through Congress. 

“We cannot play around with the laws of the land. Even with the passage of a provincial ordinance by Cebu province making the wearing of face masks optional, such ordinance is void and legally infirm and incapable of superseding EOs of the President of the Philippines,” Año also said.

“We emphasize that these EOs are superior over LGU ordinances. Local governments are merely agents of the national government and local sanggunians exercise only delegated powers conferred by the national government. LGUs cannot hold more authority than the national government. Obviously, the delegate cannot exercise powers superior to its principal."


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