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DILG talking to its lawyers on ‘rogue’ LGUs that violate pandemic rules

SHOPPERS are seen in Divisoria, Manila. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ RUSSELL PALMA

THE DEPARTMENT of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Thursday said it was consulting with its lawyers on how to stop local governments from going against the National Government’s pandemic policies.

“We are consulting our legal team about our next move to ensure this practice would end since this should really not be the case,”  Interior Secretary Eduardo M. Año told ABS-CBN Teleradyo.

The agency on Monday said it would consider asking Cebu Governor Gwendolyn F. Garcia to explain her policy of making face masks optional outdoors, which contradicts the guidelines of the country’s pandemic task force.

Mr. Año said police would arrest people who violate health protocols approved by President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

“The most important thing here is the health and well-being of our citizens,” he said. “We are still under a state of calamity, which will remain in effect until September 2022.”

DILG earlier said it would not recognize the optional face mask policy and would follow the national guidelines set by Mr. Duterte.

Ms. Garcia told the ABS-CBN News Channel on Monday there was no legal basis to arrest people who did not wear face masks outdoors.

She said the country’s pandemic task force should respect the autonomy of local governments, adding that forcing people to wear face masks outside is unimplementable.

“We do not want to set a precedent for other local government units,” Mr. Año said in a separate statement. “We are still in a pandemic and more transmissible variants are still arising, hence, we must abide by the minimum public health protocols, including wearing face masks in order to finally defeat this pandemic.”

Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra earlier said guidelines and resolutions issued by the national pandemic task force and approved by Mr. Duterte should prevail.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the president exercises general supervision over local government units. — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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