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DILG: The usage of face masks is an option that might be considered graft

MANILA, Philippines — Under Executive Order (EO) 151, which establishes the nationwide alert level system, Cebu City’s law on the optional wearing of face masks could be grounds for graft.

Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Eduardo Ano is still expecting a “remedy” from the Cebu provincial government, which he has given until the weekend to fix Governor Gwen Garcia’s EO 16 issued on June 8.

Cebu’s order also contradicts EOs 168 and 1218, as well as Republic Act (RA) 11332, or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act, according to Ano, who spoke at a press conference at the “Back-to-Vax Champion” Covid-19 vaccination ramp-up event at a mall in Quezon City on Friday.

EO 1218 declares a state of calamity; EO 168 adopts measures to strengthen the Department of Health’s (DOH) Emerging and Re-Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) Program or its equivalent in other local health units, as well as to formulate, develop, implement, and oversee the EID Preparedness Manual; and RA 11332 directs the DOH to formulate and implement necessary health protocols, according to Ano.

The most egregious breach, according to Ano, is EO 151.

“Ang No local government executive order or ordinance can override national law, including executive orders. Otherwise, that will be called a graft, and they will be held accountable,” he stated.

Secretary Vince Dizon, deputy chief implementor of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), said they engage experts frequently while developing policy.

“That has been the rule of the IATF, the NTF (National Task Force Against Covid-19), and the President throughout the pandemic,” Dizon stated.

He stated that the IATF has explored the concept of not wearing a mask outside, but that it is still advisable to err on the side of caution, according to specialists.

“It’s also an undeniable fact that wearing a mask is the most efficient strategy to avoid Covid-19 transmission,” Dizon noted.

Senator Sonny Angara called on the federal government and Garcia to resolve their differences over the mask mandate’s enforcement on Wednesday.

Angara said he understood Garcia’s feelings on the matter, pointing out that Cebu is a tourism-dependent state.

“Naiintindihan ko ‘yung perspective ni (I understand the governor’s point of view in attempting to develop a proactive policy on the wearing of masks.)” And may basis din naman ‘yun because pag tiningnan mo (And it has a basis because) masks are no longer worn outside all over the world. In an interview, he stated, “It’s just voluntary now.”

Garcia previously stated that the IATF’s resolutions are purely “recommendatory in nature,” and the agency itself acknowledges that its resolutions are not equal to laws enacted by Congress or executive orders.

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