Cebu News

DILG - Duterte's power prevails over local ordinances

Le Phyllis F. Antojado - The Freeman
DILG - Duterte's power prevails over local ordinances
This was the statement of Interior Secretary Eduardo Año as he commented on Cebu’s controversial policy for overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROF) arriving at the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA), which is stipulated in a provincial ordinance.

CEBU, Philippines — The executive power of the President prevails over local ordinances, thus, local government units must follow the command of the national government.

This was the statement of Interior Secretary Eduardo Año as he commented on Cebu’s controversial policy for overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROF) arriving at the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA), which is stipulated in a provincial ordinance.

Año said the policies of LGUs during a pandemic are expected to conform to the policies of the national Inter-Agency Task Force created through an executive order issued by the President.

“They (LGUs) are expected to follow the command of the national government exercised through the executive power of the chief executive, hence, no amount of an executive order or ordinance from the province can defeat this power of the President,” Año said.

The national government's protocols require OFWs and ROFs to undergo quarantine for at least 10 days and swab tests on the seventh day from arrival. Under the Cebu provincial ordinance, OFWs and ROFs will be swabbed upon arrival at the Mactan airport and can proceed to their point of destination if they test negative. There, they will undergo home quarantine and will be swabbed on the seventh day.

During a Senate hearing on June 15, 2021, Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said she respects the rule of law and that the provincial ordinance that was passed by the Provincial Board is the local law of the land in accordance to RA 7160 or the Local Government Code, unless it is declared “ultra vires” by a proper court.

Garcia invoked section 105 of the Code, which states, “in cases of epidemics, pestilence, and other widespread public health dangers, the Secretary of Health may, upon the direction of the President and in consultation with the local government unit concerned, temporarily assume direct supervision and control over health operations in any local government unit for the duration of the emergency, but in no case exceeding a cumulative period of six (6) months. With the concurrence of the local government unit concerned, the period for such direct national control and supervision may be further extended.”

Ultra vires means acting or doing something beyond one's legal power or authority.

But Año said, “hindi naman po kailangan mag-ultra vires because in the first instance, the ordinance or the resolution is, in the first place, opposing the resolution that has been approved by the President.”

Senator Francisco Pangilinan, meanwhile, supported Garcia’s argument, citing Republic Act 11494 or the “Bayanihan to Recover as one Act”.

This law states, “pursuant to the constitutional right of freedom of movement of persons, the IATF-EID shall be responsible for providing guidance on cross-border concerns, including, but not limited to, LSIs, OFWs, domestic travelers and residents, while the LGUs shall determine the policies and regulations within their respective jurisdictions”.

No Effect

The author of the provincial ordinance, Third District Board Member John Ismael Borgonia, himself a lawyer, said Año’s statement falls on its own and will not affect the enforcement of the ordinance.

“We are a government of laws, not of men. Dili pasabot nga mao na iyang gisulti, mao na ang balaod,” Borgonia told reporters.

He said the power of the Office of the President is to ensure that local government units follow the law.

“Wala siya’y power to substitute sa judgement sa local government unit,” he said.

Borgonia said the Provincial Board will pass a resolution that would invite medical experts from the national IATF to Cebu. When they do heed the invitation, Borgonia hopes these experts can present data and their “critique” on Cebu’s policy for OFWs and ROFs.

Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, chief pathologist and spokesperson of the Department of Health (DOH)-7, said the Cebu policy actually does not defy IATF guidelines.

“If you will really look at it, hindi naman talaga tayo nag-violate. It has always been in compliant with IATF guideline on testing and on quarantine protocol. It’s just that we have to do some innovative changes primarily because testing upon arrival is an enhancement of security measures, making sure nga kadto bitaw mga positive upon arrival, we will be able to extract them already and will not allow them to be going around,” she said.

“The mandatory 10-day quarantine is being followed, but instead of the whole 10 days in the hotel facility, OFW / ROF with a negative first swab result is allowed to continue the remaining days of quarantine either in their homes or in the LGU identified facility,” she said further.

Meanwhile, Garcia is expected to attend a virtual meeting with the House of Representatives today, June 17.

TUCP Representative Raymond Democrito Mendoza who chairs the Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs invited Garcia to be a resource person in the meeting.

One of the items in the agenda is the situation of OFWs and how protocols on COVID-19 affect them. — JMO (FREEMAN)

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