The Department of Interior and Local Government on Monday ended the policy stalemate on the outdoor face mask mandate in Cebu province—saying people who will not wear face masks in public places will be arrested for disobedience to persons in authority.
DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III issued the policy statement despite Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia’s executive order making mask wearing in open and well-ventilated spaces no longer mandatory.
“They can be arrested on the basis of disobedience to persons with authority, not necessarily the non-wearing of face masks,” Densing said.
For his part, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said executive orders issued by the President should prevail over executive orders issued by local government units.
“As between an executive order issued by the President, as manifested in resolutions issued by the IATF composed of Cabinet secretaries who are the alter egos of the President, on one hand, and executive orders issued by local government units, on the other hand, the former shall prevail, as the president exercises general supervision over local governments pursuant to Section 4, Article X of the Philippine Constitution,” Guevarra said.
Philippine National Police officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. also ordered all police officers to follow the national government’s rule enforcing mask mandates.
This was after conflicting statements issued by the Police Regional Office 7 (Central Visayas) and the Cebu Police Provincial Office (CPPO).
“Whatever the Secretary of Interior and Local Government says, we should follow. We have the national IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force),” Danao said.
PRO-7 chief Brig. Gen. Roque Eduardo Vega upheld the IATF recommendation to keep the mask mandate, while CPPO chief Lt. Col. Engelbert Soriano sided with Garcia on the implementation of provincial EO 16.
Garcia, however, insisted on Monday there is “no legal basis” for authorities to apprehend people who do not wear face masks outdoors in the province.
“Let us temper our reaction and our way of addressing the challenge. Let’s not bring this to unimplementable levels,” Garcia said.
The province of Cebu is the first local government to adopt the optional wearing of face masks in open areas.
But Densing said the order of President Rodrigo Duterte to continue wearing masks indoors and outdoors remains in effect.
“This is a valid order from the highest official, the President himself. I’d like to make mention that under the Constitution, the President has the general supervision over all local government units, in this case, all the mayors and governors of highly urbanized cities,” Densing said.
President Duterte earlier said the country’s mask mandate will remain in effect until he steps down on June 30.
When asked about the province’s vaccination rate, Garcia said she doesn’t “closely monitor” it as she has “more important” concerns. The province, however, has “strongly supported” the vaccination program, she said.