(File photo)

MANILA – Philippine National Police (PNP) officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. on Monday ordered all police officers to follow the national government's rule enforcing mask mandates across the country.

Danao made the remark as a clarification over the conflicting views of the Police Regional Office 7 (Central Visayas) and the Cebu Police Provincial Office (CPPO) on Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia's Executive Order (EO) 16 which made the wearing of face masks in open and well-ventilated spaces in the province optional.

“Remember we are members of the Philippine Government so whatever the mandate or whatever the Secretary of Interior and Local Government says, we should follow. We have the national IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force),” he said in a press briefing in Camp Crame.

Over the weekend, PRO-7 chief Brig. Gen. Roque Eduardo Vega sided with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases' rule on the mandatory wearing of face masks, saying this is in compliance with the pronouncement of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

However, this was countered by CPPO chief Lt. Col. Engelbert Soriano, who sided with Garcia on the implementation of EO 16.

Earlier, Garcia said that there was "no legal basis" for authorities to apprehend persons who don't wear face masks outdoors in the province.

This was countered by DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said persons who violate health protocols such as wearing face masks may be arrested "if necessary."

While he respects Garcia's right to question rules set by the national government, Danao said the PNP, as a general rule, will follow the chain of command.

The province of Cebu is the first local government in the country to implement the optional wearing of face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said the country's mask mandate will remain in effect until he steps down on June 30.

No compromise

In a Laging Handa briefing, Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III insisted that governors and mayors of highly urbanized cities are under the direction and supervision of the President, rejecting Garcia’s stand on the legality of her order under Section 105 of the Local Government Code (LGC).

Gusto ko sanang i-correct lang na hindi po ito applicable sa sitwasyon ngayon dahil ang Section 105 ng LGC nagbabanggit po doon na puwede pong utusan ng pangulo ang Secretary of Health after consulting with the local government na i-take over nila ang health operations ng isang LGU at maibabalik lamang ito after six months. Pero dito sa sitwasyon natin never po nag take over ng health operations ang ating national government sa local government health operations (I just want to correct that this is not applicable in this situation since Section 5 of the LGC states that the President and Secretary of Health after consulting with the local government may take over the health operations of an LGU which may again handed over to the locality after six months),’’ Densing said.

Densing explained that Section 105 of the LGC states that parts of the national policies are geared toward preventing the spread of Covid-19 through the mandatory wearing of face masks.

At isa sa binabanggit sa ating lokal na gobyerno (And one of the things stated) is all local government officials' mandate is to follow the law, policy and regulations at ito ang basehan ng general supervision ng ating pangulo (and this is the basis of the general supervision of our President),’’ he added.

The DILG official asserted that the President’s mandate in this general supervision has been delegated to the DILG through Administrative Order (AO) 367 which gives the department the power to call the attention of the LGUs whose policies or ordinances are not aligned with national laws.

Quizzed on whether charges will be filed against Garcia, Densing replied that sending a show-cause order will be the last resort.

“But in the meantime, we will have to ask our (DILG) officials in the region to talk to the governor (Garcia) to make some adjustments in the EO. I believe there is a good intent in the EO by Gov. Gwen but most importantly we should probably look into the details that it should be aligned with what is pronounced by the President. So in the meantime, communication is key. A show-cause order will be the last step if ever no adjustments would be made,’’ Densing added. (PNA)