When President Rodrigo Duterte ordered local government officials to “stand down”, he was not referring to Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto whose only transgression was to allow tricylces to ferry health and food workers during the lockdown (which he stopped after being told to abide by the suspension of all public transportation).
A source from the Cabinet, who requested anonymity, said the President was referring to governors and mayors, specifically in the Visayas and Mindanao led by Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia, who have arbitrarily closed their provinces and cities to all outsiders, including their own residents.
The source said Interior Secretary Eduardo Año had pleaded with Garcia and other LGU officials to allow their own residents to go inside their province or city so they could spend their quarantine time in their own homes.
But Garcia and other LGUs officials have remained defiant which forced the government to scramble in finding temporary quarantine facilities to house the stranded Filipinos, mostly returning overseas Filipino workers who were turned away by their own governors and mayors.
The number of stranded Filipinos is expected to grow especially with thousands of jobless OFWs flying back home. Aside from quarantine issues, the defiant governors and mayors have also caused major disruptions in the supply chain of basic goods and delivery of food donations to quarantined Filipinos.
On March 26, Garcia reiterated her lockdown order by mandating the police, military and coast guard not to allow any “person to enter Cebu province through any seaports and airports.”
The issue on conflicting lockdown policies was raised by IATF spokesman Nograles in an April 6 briefing: “LGUs should not pass ordinances that are not consistent with IATF policy.”
A few days after declaring an enhanced community quarantine in Luzon and allowing other LGUs in the rest of the country to initiate their own lockdowns, Duterte ordered all governors and mayors to “stand down, and to abide by the directives of the IATF… to make sure that what the IATF says should be closed, is closed, and those that should be open, stays open,” Duterte said.
“You know, the only reason why you can impose these quarantine restrictions and impose it on everyone passing [through] your areas, is because the national government is allowing you to do so,” he said. “But if you go beyond the standards that we have set, you are abusing your authority, and you know that it can lead to – administrative cases or even worse, unless you stop what you are doing and [cooperate] fully. Criminal cases cannot be far behind,” the President said.
The National Bureau of Investigation announced it was inviting Sotto to explain his actions but Duterte was quick to distance himself from the probe.