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People who don’t wear face masks may be arrested

PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

THE GOVERNMENT would not hesitate to charge people, including those in Cebu province, who violate health protocols amid a coronavirus pandemic, according to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Violators were being monitored, including those in Cebu where the governor has made wearing face masks outdoors optional, Interior Undersecretary Martin B. Diño told a televised news briefing on Tuesday.

He said they would wait for orders from the presidential palace about how to deal with Cebu Governor Gwendolyn F. Garcia.

“If this is what Cebu Governor Gwendolyn F. Garcia wants to do then let us just see what the law says and what the advice of Malacañang will be on this ordinance,” he added.

“Let us see what the new president, Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr.’s  policy will be on this issue, but we will continue the current policies on wearing face masks,” he added.

DILG earlier said it would consider asking Ms. Garcia, a Marcos ally, to explain her policy of making face masks optional outdoors, which goes against the health protocols of the country’s pandemic task force.

Mr. Diño said Interior Secretary Eduardo M. Año had ordered him to continue implementing minimum public health protocols in 42,046 villages nationwide.

“Up to this date, the country is still in a state of public health emergency and we should continue complying with the inter-agency task force’s guidelines in all local government units,” he added.

On Friday, Ms. Garcia told a press briefing she would stand by her order.

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

Ms. Garcia last week said there was no legal basis to arrest people who did not wear face masks outdoors. 

The governor 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.

Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra earlier said guidelines and resolutions approved by Mr. Duterte should prevail.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the president exercises general supervision over local government units.

The Department of Health on Monday reported an 82% increase in coronavirus infections in the Philippines. — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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